Ford hires new China chief to tackle daunting turnaround task

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: Ford Motor Co has hired a new chief for its troubled China operations, ending a nine-month search after the previous head suddenly quit and tasking him with fixing a deep sales slump in the world’s biggest car market.
Anning Chen, 57, a former Ford engineer and chairman of Chery Jaguar Land Rover in China, will take the helm from November 1. An American national who was born in China, he is fluent in Chinese and has roughly 14 years experience of working in the country.
The move, which cements a shift to Chinese management in the country for Ford, comes at a pivotal time with sales sliding on the lack of a popular SUV for the market as well as rocky relationships with its Chinese joint venture partners.
“Getting a local person in this role is a good move. This will likely give Ford a better understanding of the market,” said Bill Russo, head of Automobility Ltd.
Ford’s vehicle sales fell 43 per cent in September from a year earlier and are down 30 per cent in the first nine months of the year. Ford blames its weak China business on an ageing model lineup that is awaiting an overhaul.
By comparison, industry-wide sales are up 1.5 per cent for the year to date with rival Toyota Motor Corp logging a 12.5 per cent gain.
China represents Ford’s second-biggest market by sales volume but in the second quarter the automaker booked a pretax loss of $483 million for its operations there.
Executives have noted the combination of lower prices and falling sales, particularly in the hot crossover and SUV market, had hit the company hard.
Chen’s appointment comes as Ford restructures operations, and its China business will now become stand-alone business unit, reporting directly to global headquarters. Chen will report to Jim Farley, president of global markets. — Reuters