Mon, May 29, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Ford Lio Ho set for first export batch

NEW HORIZONS The automaker will tomorrow send off its first exports of Escape SUVs to three foreign markets, with total exports set to reach 10,000 units this year

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Following in the footsteps of bigger rival China Motor Corp (中華汽車), the nation's fourth largest automobile maker Ford Lio Ho Motor Co (福特六和) is poised to export its first batch of locally assembled vehicles to overseas markets tomorrow.

The company will hold a ceremony tomorrow at the Taipei Harbor to mark its shipment of Escape sport utility vehicles to Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

"Most local automakers have aggressive plans to export cars to other markets and we are no exception. This will create a new growth area for us," Ford Lio Ho spokesperson Grace Lee (李秋萍) told the Taipei Times last Wednesday.

Exporting to these three countries, where domestic auto markets are already highly competitive, proves that vehicles from Ford Lio Ho can withstand competition and meet "global standards," Lee said.

She declined to reveal more details on the exports.

According to a report in the Chinese-language Apple Daily last Wednesday, Ford Lio Ho will send 500 Escapes to Japan, New Zealand and Australia to kick off its first formal export business, while the export figure for the entire year will probably reach 10,000 units.

In addition to those destinations, the automaker is considering exporting other assembled-in-Taiwan models to South Africa later this year, the report said.

It added that since last year Ford Lio Ho has been trying to gain approval from US partner Ford Motor Co to set up an Asia-Pacific base for auto development and assembly in Taiwan, and the export of Escape vehicles was the first step toward attaining that goal.

Indeed, as the local car market this year has showed signs of slowing down, vendors are attempting to branch into new areas to ensure continued growth. According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, sales for the first four months fell 24.4 percent compared to the same period last year, with Ford Lio Ho and Yulon Nissan Motor Co (裕隆日產) reporting the highest declines of around 35 percent.

Industry players have estimated that total auto sales this year will plunge to around 420,000 units from 514,626 units last year.

Last year's sales smashed a 10-year record to surpass 500,000 units, thanks to automakers' aggressive zero-percent financing programs and growth in demand for recreational and utility vehicles.

China Motor, the nation's most aggressive player in the export business, exported another 30 Mitsubishi Grunder large-sized sedans to the Philippines in March, following its first batch of 50 exports in January. The company's Veryca/Varica commercial vans also started to gain a foothold in Syria in March.

The trucks have been the export focus for China Motor since 1994, showing steady sales in the Americas, Southeast Asia and Africa.

The contribution to China Motors' total revenues from its export business is set to increase from 20 percent now to 40 percent next year, hitting NT$20 billion (US$625,000), according to the company.

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