Ford Motor Co. (F) made changes and added features to its mid-sized sedan to woo China consumers as it aims to more than double market share there by 2015 and compete against segment leaders Volkswagen AG (VOW) and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)
Ford is introducing the revamped Mondeo, priced from 179,800 yuan ($29,400) to 265,800 yuan, today, said Trevor Worthington, vice president of product development in the Asia Pacific region. The automaker expects to sell between 70,000 to 110,000 units of the model a year, he said.
Sales of the second-largest U.S. carmaker in China jumped 50 percent in the first seven months of this year as it benefits from expanding its lineup and doubling production capacity in the country. Ford, which has lagged behind General Motors Co. (GM) in the world’s largest auto market, is counting on the refurbished Mondeo to take on Volkswagen’s Magotan and Passat, Toyota’s Camry, Honda Motor Co. (7267)’s Accord, Nissan Motor Co. (7201)’s Teana, and GM’s Buick Regal and Lacrosse.
“We do see ourselves with this vehicle as being a volume player that appeals to a range of different people,” Worthington said in an interview in Shanghai. “There are unique requirements that a customer has that perhaps U.S. customers or European customers haven’t, so it’s our job to make sure that from an appearance, craftmanship perspective, that all of those things are able to be taken into account.”
Ford, based in Dearborn, Michigan, had annual sales of fewer than 70,000 units of its earlier versions of the Mondeo in China from 2008 to 2012, according to data from researcher LMC Automotive. Mondeo is sold as the Fusion in the U.S.
“The Mondeo will do well against the others in the category,” said Yale Zhang, Shanghai-based managing director of consultancy Autoforesight Shanghai Co. “The Japanese used to dominate because of their reputation for fuel efficiency, but the Americans and Europeans have now caught up, and even surpassed them, with cutting edge design and powertrain technology.”
The Mondeo’s overall fuel consumption of 6.9 liters per 100 kilometers on its 1.5 liter EcoBoost turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine compares with the Passat’s 5.7 liters per 100 kilometers on its 2.0 TSI engine, traveling at 90 kilometers per hour.
The Passat was the top-selling model in the category last year at 210,567 units and continues to lead with 137,421 vehicles delivered in the first seven months of the year, according to data from LMC Automotive. VW’s Magotan followed the Passat in beating others in its class in 2012 and the first seven months of this year.
Ford, which aims to reach 6 percent of China’s market share by 2015, had about 2.5 percent of the market last year, according to LMC Automotive. GM had 15.6 percent share of the market, while Volkswagen had 14.5 percent, it said.
The automaker took at least three years of market research with more than 700 potential customers to come up with ideas to modify the Mondeo’s design and features to appeal to Chinese consumers, Worthington said.
In the China version of the car Ford has included LED headlights, enabled control of cabin music as well as adjustments to the front passenger seat by those sitting in the rear seats, Worthington said. The shape of the taillights has been changed to a circle instead of a C-shape as it appeals more to Chinese customers culturally, he said.
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