CEO of Ford’s China operation resigns

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

The chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Co.’s Chinese operations resigned Monday, less than six months after taking over there.

Jason Luo resigned for unspecified “personal reasons that predate his time at Ford,” according to Peter Fleet, Ford’s president of the Asia Pacific region. Fleet will take on Luo’s responsibilities until the company announces a replacement.

Luo’s resignation comes as Ford works to grow its presence in the world’s largest auto market. Ford and its Chinese joint ventures in 2017 saw sales there drop 6 percent compared to the year prior to 1.2 million vehicles. Meanwhile, crosstown rival General Motors Co., which has been in the Chinese market longer than Ford, sold 4 million vehicles there last year, a 4.4 percent increase.

Fleet stressed in a statement that Luo’s departure was not related to performance of Ford China, which Fleet characterized as “robust, with a bright future ahead.

“Jason made valuable contributions in accelerating our electric vehicle strategy, exploring opportunities to provide future smart mobility solutions for customers in China, and identifying ways to become more operationally fit,” Fleet said in a statement.

Luo was appointed to CEO of Ford China following a stint at Key Safety Systems, an automotive safety company where he was CEO for 10 years.

Ford plans to introduce 16 new vehicles in China this year. The company has 23 global launches planned for 2018. The Chinese market will also see an influx of electrified Ford vehicle launches within the next four years.

The company plans to introduce 40 electric vehicles globally by 2022, which will cost around $11 billion. Ford plans to bring a total of 50 new vehicles to market in China by 2025. The company will build five new vehicles there.

The company plans to sell a new premium Lincoln SUV there as part of the 50 new vehicles.

The Dearborn-based automaker also has a three-year agreement with Alibaba Group to find new ways to sell vehicles in China. Alibaba is often referred to as China’s Amazon. The partnership could bring about online retail opportunities for Ford in China.

Fleet told The Detroit News in January at the Detroit auto show that Ford has no intention to be a “niche” company in China. While the Chinese have taken to the Lincoln brand, and Ford’s trucks play well in that market, Fleet said Ford’s intends to be a major brand there.

“We expect (our Ford brand in China) to be, just like we are all around the world, a mainstream player in the mainstream volume marketplace,” Fleet said.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau