More Big Gains for Ford in China

Ford rolled out the Mondeo -- the car we know as the Fusion -- to its Chinese customers at the end of  August. Sales have begun to gather steam. Photo credit: Ford Motor Co.

In what is getting to be a recurring story, Ford (NYSE: F  ) had another huge month in China in October.

Last month, Ford's sales in China were up 55% over a very strong result a year ago. That's just the latest data point in what has become a trend: For the year through October, Ford's China sales are up 52%.

Ford's Focus continues to be a mainstay -- it's one of China's best-selling cars. But increasingly, other Fords are helping to push those numbers higher.

New Ford models are catching on with Chinese buyers
The car shown above is Ford's Mondeo, the Chinese-market version of the Ford Fusion that has been selling so well here in the U.S. It's finding favor with Chinese car buyers, as well. 

Ford launched the Mondeo in China at the end of August, and sales have been picking up steam: 7,085 were sold last month. Ford's familiar Escape -- called the Kuga in China -- has also been doing well, selling over 9,500 last month. The small Fiesta-based EcoSport SUV has also begun to find a following in the Middle Kingdom.

Ford's current product formula, where it packs luxury-car features into mass-market models, is playing very well in China. Many Chinese car buyers say they want something that's nice, even plush, but not ostentatious. Ford's latest offerings fit that requirement very well. 

And it doesn't hurt that Ford is one of the world's oldest automakers -- and still partially controlled by the founding family -- in a country where age, and family ties, are given great respect.

Ford's two-Focus strategy continues to drive gains
But it's the Focus that remains the big story for Ford in China. Or, rather, the two Focuses, as Ford sells two separate cars called "Focus" in China. 

Ford's Classic Focus is its entry-level compact offering in China. Photo credit: Ford Motor Co.

The first is based on the last-generation European Focus. It's called "Classic Focus," and sold at what is in China a mid-market price point. The second is the "New Focus," the current global model that's familiar to Americans, which is positioned as a premium product.

The New Focus is positioned as a premium product. Photo credit: Ford Motor Co.

It's not uncommon for automakers in China to continue to sell an older model as a value-priced alternative side by side with a new one, and it's not uncommon for those automakers to report sales totals as if the two were a single model. That's what Ford does with the Focus.

That makes it a little tricky for us to tell exactly what's going on with Ford's sales. But with 39,710 cars called "Focus" sold in October, it's clear that what's going on is pretty good.

An aggressive growth plan that's ahead of schedule
Ford isn't yet a huge player in China. Its market share remains far behind the twin titans of China's booming automotive marketplace, Volkswagen and General Motors.

But while Ford was very late to the Chinese auto party, it has been making up for lost time. Ford has set a goal of having a 6% share of China's auto market by 2015, and has committed a huge investment -- nearly $5 billion -- to make that happen. 

That market-share target sounded aggressive last year, when Ford's share stood around 3%. But with this year's big gains, Ford could be close to 5% by year's end

If anything, the Blue Oval's targets in China could turn out to have been conservative.

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