SHANGHAI — The face of the redesigned Ford Escape underscores a painful lesson for the American automaker: The old One Ford cookie-cutter approach didn't cut it in China.
Stung by sagging sales in the world's biggest market, Ford gave the 2020 update of the popular crossover two faces. There is one design for the U.S. and another, more opulent one for China.
The special tailoring is part of a dramatic China reboot for Ford.
Desperate to reverse last year's 37 percent tumble in China sales, Ford is belatedly following rivals in doing things differently in China for Chinese customers.
The Ford China 2.0 plan, unveiled ahead of last week's Shanghai auto show, goes local in a big way with newly expanded China-dedicated centers for design, engineering and advanced innovation.
"The model used to be we just brought models from Europe or North America," said Tim Slatter, Ford's executive director for product development in China. "We're not going to bring the global design to China. We're going to really think about what a China customer wants."
Ford and fellow American automaker General Motors are suddenly struggling in China as local demand sputters amid the country's slowing economy and trade tensions.
Passenger vehicle sales retreated 4.1 percent in 2018, the first annual decline in nearly three decades. But GM's deliveries in China fell 9.9 percent to 3.64 million vehicles, while Ford's plunged 37 percent to 752,243. As both lost ground, Japanese and German rivals gained market share.