Sat, Feb 03, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Ford Lio Ho looks for expansion

STRONG FOUNDATION The company's new US-born leader said that the supply base in Taiwan was 'one of the best' among the smaller markets in Southeast Asia

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ford Lio Ho Motor Co (福特六和), the nation's fourth-biggest automaker, is poised to continue expanding its export business this year by taking advantage of the strong supply chain that exists in Taiwan, the company's new president said yesterday.

"We will broaden our scope outside of Taiwan's market," Ford Lio Ho president Jeffery Nemeth said on the sidelines of a press conference announcing his new role yesterday.

Ford Lio Ho will take advantage of the opportunities in the export market by leveraging off the company's production capacity, product design and quality manufacturing, he said.

"The supply base here is one of the best among the smaller markets in Asia such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand," he said.

These Southeast Asian countries will take a while to catch up with Taiwan's car production experience, which will help Ford Lio Ho to maintain its leading position, said Nemeth, who hails from the US.

Last May, the carmaker exported its first locally assembled cars -- the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute sports utility vehicles.

The shipments marked the first time that vehicles made in Taiwan had been exported to Japan, Australia and New Zealand, which impose strict import regulations and evaluation procedures.

This year, Ford Lio Ho is setting its sights on exporting Taiwan-made vehicles to markets outside of the Asia-Pacific region, such as Russia, said Cheng Meiwei (程美瑋), chairman and CEO of Ford Motor (China) Ltd.

"Our cars have already made it into the stringent Japanese market and it would not be tough to break into others as well," Cheng said.

Local automakers including China Motor Corp (中華汽車) have been gearing up to tap into the booming export business to counter sluggish sales in Taiwan.

According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, makers here sold only 42,238 cars last month, a 28 percent drop from the same period last year.

For the whole of last year, car sales plunged 29 percent from a year earlier to only 366,311 units.

Nemeth, 47, said that the local market should post a slight growth this year, or at least hover around a level similar to last year's.

Nemeth officially took over from predecessor Jeffrey Shen (沈英銓) as the new Ford Lio Ho president on Thursday. Shen, the first Taiwanese to run the firm in its history, will take the helm at Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Co (長安福特馬自達) in China.

Nemeth was based in Taiwan from August 1999 to July 2002 as a financial director at Ford Lio Ho. For the last three years, he was the general manager of the corporate strategy division of Mazda Japan.

He expressed confidence that he would be able to apply the experience he has gained in Asia to help Ford Lio Ho achieve success.

Profits at Mazda doubled after Nemeth joined the company.

"I came to Taiwan at a time when car sales hit new lows, and everyone thought `Taiwan is dead.' But look what happened later," he said.

"I would say I am cautiously optimistic about the future of Taiwan's market," he added.

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