It turns out that March was a huge month for Ford (NYSE:F) in China: The Blue Oval reported on Tuesday that its sales in the Middle Kingdom were up 65% in March over the year-ago period.
That result capped a record-breaking quarter in China for Ford and its joint-venture partners. Ford totaled 186,596 wholesale deliveries in China in the first quarter, up 54% over the first quarter of 2012.
These gains are particularly impressive because growth of the overall auto market in China has been quite subdued in recent months. But Ford's ambitious plan to establish itself as a major player in China looks to be rapidly gathering steam.
After a late start, success for the Blue Oval in China
Ford was a latecomer to the Chinese auto party. Years after General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Volkswagen (NASDAQOTH:VLKAY) had established themselves as major players in the market, Ford had only a token presence in the region, selling just a small number of cars and trucks.
But a few years ago, Ford CEO Alan Mulally moved aggressively to start changing that. Ford has since begun a massive expansion plan in China, investing over $5 billion in a series of new factories and engineering centers.
And now it looks like Ford is racking up its second big success, with an SUV that will be a familiar face – if not exactly a familiar name – to American Ford-followers.
Another hit brewing, this time an SUV
Ford's new-to-China Kuga SUV, pictured above, is a twin in all but name to the Escape SUV that has been racking up big sales numbers here in the U.S. Launched here last year, the latest Escape has been a good hit for Ford, posting substantial sales gains over its popular and well-regarded predecessor.
Now Ford has launched its twin in China, and early results are looking good. Ford sold nearly 10,000 Kugas in China in March, the model's first full month on sale. SUVs are an increasingly hot market segment in China, and Ford is following up the Kuga's launch with two more SUV models from its global portfolio: The EcoSport, a Fiesta-based small SUV originally developed for emerging markets, and the familiar Explorer.
More new products are set to arrive soon
Next up for Ford in China: The all-new Mondeo, a mid-sized sedan that is a twin in all but name to the U.S. market Fusion. The Mondeo is set to go on sale in China next month, and its striking good looks are already expected to make it a popular contender – just as they have here with the Fusion.
That would be another win for Ford. The Blue Oval may be coming from behind in China, but its strong global product portfolio is already helping it make up for lost time.
Motley Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. Follow him on Twitter at @jrosevear. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.