Ford Motor Co’s sales in China surged 49 percent last year, overtaking Toyota Motor Corp as the nation’s fifth-largest foreign automaker.
Ford delivered a record 935,813 units in the country last year, while Toyota’s sales gained 9.2 percent to 917,500 vehicles, the companies said yesterday in statements.
While the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker got a later start in China than General Motors Co (GM) and Volkswagen AG, Ford is catching up fast.
The popularity of the Focus helped the company’s sales in the country expand faster than any major carmaker and the company is spending US$4.9 billion to double production capacity there.
Aside from the Focus, Ford benefited from the popularity of new locally manufactured models such as the Kuga and EcoSport SUVs, as well as the Fusion — called Mondeo in China.
At Toyota, sales rebounded last year from the previous year, when a backlash against Japanese brands caused Toyota’s sales in the country to fall for the first time on record, while Tokyo-based Honda’s sales rose 26 percent to 756,882 vehicles, the companies said in statements yesterday.
Separately, General Motors is in discussions with Chinese telecommunications companies about providing 4G high-speed cellular data service in its vehicles.
GM, which will begin offering AT&T Inc’s 4G LTE in select Chevrolet models in the second quarter in the US and Canada, wants to select a carrier in China by year’s end, GM global connected consumer division president Mary Chan (蕭美蕾) said in a telephone interview.
Introducing 4G to its largest market — and the world’s largest for new cars — would build on GM’s efforts to refashion its OnStar communication service into a high-tech infotainment system and open new money-making opportunities.
Detroit-based GM has more than 6.5 million OnStar subscribers, about 600,000 of them in China.
“We’ve got specific requirements around OnStar services on LTE that we want to be made available,” Chan said. “It is safe to say that we’ll get China out there ahead of Europe.”
The automaker said in a statement yesterday that models including the Malibu and the Impala sedans will be among the first to get 4G in North America, and that GM will make special applications available through the Chevrolet AppShop.
While China’s cellular network is not as advanced as the one in the US, it’s moving in that direction. The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology last month awarded approval to start commercial services for 4G to China Mobile Ltd (中國移動), China Unicom Ltd (中國聯通) and China Telecom Corp (中國電信).
The government didn’t say when services using the TD-LTE standard will begin.
Entering China with 4G connected vehicles “is a function around the timing of the network and the capability of the network,” Chan said. “We’re working through our selection process. We will certainly work toward the goal to make sure that this year we wrap up on the selection process.”