BEIJING (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally sees China becoming an export hub for the automaker, but he added that the company's current focus is on meeting local demand.
"I think it's just a matter of time," he said when asked about Ford exporting from China. "Over time, all of our facilities are positioned so we can support all the markets around the world from any location," Mulally said in a Bloomberg TV interview today.
Mulally is in China to help open a factory in the southeastern city of Nanchang at one of Ford's Chinese partners, Jiangling Motors Corp. The factory, which adds 300,000 vehicles in annual capacity to the existing 245,000 units, will be used to make both Ford- and JMC-brand vehicles. Ford is investing $4.9 billion in China to try to catch up with Volkswagen Group and General Motors Co.
The emphasis on China has been working, Mulally said.
Ford's sales have been rising faster than expected and the company is the fastest-growing major foreign automaker in China this year with vehicle sales surging 48 percent in the first five months, spurred by demand for its EcoSport and Kuga SUVs.
John Zeng, Shanghai-based managing director at LMC Automotive, said: "Ford's expansion in China this year exceeded our expectation. Ford holds all the aces in China this year as its new products are well accepted by Chinese buyers."
The automaker aims to take 6 percent of China's market by 2015, China head David Schoch said in April.
To further widen its product lineup, Ford said it will bring two new global products through Jiangling Motors. It plans to make a new Ford commercial vehicle and new Ford SUV, Ford said. Ford and Jiangling Motors also announced plans to build an engine plant with initial annual capacity of 200,000 units.
Jiangling, which began making Transit vans in 1997, sold 94,208 vehicles in the first five months, 8 percent more than a year earlier, according to the company.
Japan a 'closed market'
The CEO also said that said Japan is manipulating the yen and its market is more closed than China's.
"It's just the most closed market in the world," Mulally said in reference to Japan. "With the currency manipulation, we just have to get back to the place where the currencies are set by the markets and the free trade agreements really are free trade agreements."
Mulally said the weakening Japanese currency is hurting U.S. companies, reiterating past complaints. The yen has dropped about 17 percent against the U.S. dollar since mid-November, when Shinzo Abe said he would do whatever is necessary to end 15 years of deflation.
The Japanese currency's decline makes exports from the country more competitive and imports more expensive in yen terms. Abe's plan to end declines in consumer prices has undercut the currency as the Bank of Japan has doubled bond purchases to more than 7 trillion yen ($72 billion) a month.