Ford aims for more vehicle market segments in China

BEIJING (Reuters) - Ford Motor <F.N> plans to more than double its offers across vehicle segments in China, the world's top market, as it speeds up the launch of new models, a senior executive said on Saturday.

"If you think of the market as small cars, medium cars, large cars, SUVs, performance vehicles, all of those different pieces, we compete in about 22 percent of that market today," Will Periam, strategy director for Ford's Asia Pacific and Africa operations, told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry forum in Tianjin.

"In the future, we expect to compete in about 50 percent of that market. And that will be by new versions of the products we have and all-new products which aren't here today."

Most of the new models will be made at Ford's manufacturing plant in China, including the new Focus sedan and Kuga, a small SUV, Periam said.

China's auto market sizzled in 2010 with 18 million units sold. But it has now reverted to a more subdued growth pattern after the government ended tax incentives for small car sales and subsidies for van buyers in rural areas.

Dong Yang, secretary general of China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, has cut his forecast for 2011 vehicle sales growth 5 percent from previous estimate of 10-15 percent.

Periam expects vehicle sales to reach 32 million units by 2020.

Ford currently makes the Focus, Mondeo, X-Max and Fiesta models in a three-party tie-up with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co <000625.47> and Mazda Motor <7261.T>. Its Transit van model is also manufactured at Jiangling Motors <000550.SS> in which the U.S. auto maker owns 30 percent.

Ford, Mazda and Changan have applied to Chinese regulators to split their three-way tie into two 50-50 ventures and are awaiting approval, Periam said.

In the first seven months, Ford sold 306,830 vehicles in China, up 13 percent from a year earlier.

Periam attributed Ford's recent growth to the launch of a new Mondeo, solid demand for the Focus and Fiesta models as well as aggressive dealership expansions -- adding two outlets per week on average.

(Reporting by Fang Yan, Li Ran and Ken Wills; Editing by Ed Lane)