Ford Motor Co.'s all-new SUV exclusive to the Chinese market will feature technology developed for customers there, the automaker said Monday.

The Ford Territory debuted Tuesday morning in China ahead of its early 2019 launch. Peter Fleet, president of Ford's Asia Pacific operations, said the Territory is the first of 50 new vehicles the company plans to launch there by 2025.

"It's a great proof-point for our in-China, for-China strategy," Fleet said. 

The midsize SUV targets buyers outside of China's biggest cities by offering a lower price than most Ford or Lincoln vehicles currently sold there. It will come to market in early 2019, within 18 months of when they decided to make it  a short lead-time for the automaker. 

It's the product of Ford's partnership with Jiangling Motors Corp. (JMC), with heavy influence from the Chinese company. Ford officials said JMC's market expertise and insights on Chinese customers propelled the vehicle to launch. 

It's the first Ford SUV made exclusively for the Chinese market. The automaker said the vehicle will offer the backseat legroom sought by Chinese consumers. The vehicle will have a 10.25-inch LCD touchscreen, WiFi connectivity and cloud-based voice-recognition that can be used to open the sunroof or windows, control the climate controls or operate the infotainment system.

It has Ford's suite of standard driver-assist features the automaker is also rolling out in the U.S.

Fleet said the Territory signals where Ford hopes to go with its Chinese products.

"(The Territory) is very oriented toward the needs of our Chinese customers," he said. "It nicely signposts how the new portfolio of vehicles are highly optimized to the needs of our Chinese customers."

The SUV comes at a pivotal time for Ford. The automaker lags hometown competitor General Motors Co., as well as some other international companies, in terms of sales growth and market penetration in China. Ford's sales there slid 25 percent through the first six months of the year; the company blamed an aging vehicle lineup at the time.

The Chinese market has most recently come under scrutiny as CEO Jim Hackett pushes forward with an $11-billion restructuring of the company's global operations.  

Ford is expected to grow its footprint in China, its No. 2 market. After larger-than-expected losses in China this year, Ford is launching several new vehicles there. It is intensifying localization of some 90,000 Ford- and Lincoln-brand vehicles imported there from the United States, and is pushing to localize Ford’s leadership in China — including likely naming a Chinese national its next CEO in the region.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

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