Ford Motor Co. named Steven Armstrong president of the Changan Ford joint venture in China as the U.S. automaker tries to stem a decline in deliveries in the world's second-largest economy.
The company's sales dropped 37 percent in 2018 in the world's top auto market, mainly because of a lack of new products. Over the next three years, Ford plans to launch more than 30 new models in China, of which over a third will be electric vehicles.
But the company's struggles have continued this year, with second-quarter China sales falling 22 percent from the same period a year ago. The automaker noted that sales of Changan Ford brand vehicles recorded two consecutive months of more than 30 percent increases in May and June.
"Steve's leadership will help us further strengthen the Changan Ford JV as we bring more new vehicles to the China market, including our first global all-electric small SUV," Ford CEO Jim Hackett said in a statement.
Armstrong, the chairman of Ford Europe, will begin his new role on Oct. 1, and report to Ford China President and CEO Anning Chen.
Armstrong replaces Nigel Harris, who will retire at year end after more than three decades with Ford.
Changan Ford plans to revamp some manufacturing operations to localize production of Ford's premium Lincoln brand. The plans include annual output of up to 70,000 Corsair crossovers, including 12,000 plug-in hybrid variants, according to a document on Chongqing city authorities' website.
In China, Ford also makes cars through Jiangling Motors Corp., in which it holds a stake. It has said it will also partner with Zotye Automobile Co. to sell lower-priced vehicles, but there appears to be little progress at the project, which still has not received government approval.
According to U.S. consulting firm AlixPartners, 2018 capacity utilization rates at China assembly plants operated by Ford were below 50 percent. Normally, rates of around 70 to 75 percent are considered the break-even threshold.