Dearborn — Ford’s chief of Asia Pacific operations says the Dearborn automaker is exploring additional expansion plans in China and is in talks to create a local Chinese brand with one of its Chinese joint ventures.
Dave Schoch, president of Ford Asia Pacific, said during a roundtable with reporters Wednesday that Ford has not made a decision on expansion plans, but that current industry projections — IHS Automotive predicts 32 million autos will be sold per year in China by 2020, compared with 20 million last year — could prompt more spending to keep pace with demand.
“Our investment cadence is continuing,” Schoch said, citing five assembly and engine plants still under construction in China. “(But) when I take a look at the business plan now and beyond that, it clearly says to me (and) raises the question, do we need more capacity?
“In conjunction with our partners, we will look at that closely.”
Ford is spending billions in its Asia-Pacific-Africa region — which should post a profit this year — to double the number of powertrain plants to four and increase its number of assembly plants to 16 from 10 by 2015. That will help the automaker increase its maximum vehicle capacity to 2.9 million by 2015, up from the 1.8 million it had in 2012.
Those moves are due mostly because of the expectation that about 43 million autos annually will be sold in the region by 2020, with three-quarters of those coming from China alone.
Ford is already facing constraints, particularly when it comes to powertrains, said Schoch, who admitted the automaker cannot keep up with Chinese demand.
But the company’s market share in China is expected to reach 5.1 percent by the end of the year, Schoch said, up from the 3.2 percent mark it posted at the end of last year. That’s still about one-third of the market share of fellow U.S. automaker General Motors Co.
Ford’s gains have come as it has introduced new products to the Chinese market, including the EcoSport subcompact SUV and Kuga compact SUV.
Ford also plans to double its dealer count in China to 800 by 2015.
Schoch also said Ford is in “active discussions” with its passenger car joint-venture Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Co. Ltd. to create a local Chinese auto brand. Chinese government officials could urge businesses and consumers to buy cars from those brands.