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Ford, despite pandemic disruptions, boosted China sales in 2020

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Despite production disruptions and deflated consumer demand caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Ford Motor Co. managed to grow its sales in the world's largest auto market in 2020.

Ford this week reported that its sales in Greater China grew 6.1% year-over-year, to 602,627 vehicles. In the fourth quarter, the automaker's sales were up 30.3% over the same quarter in 2019, marking the third consecutive quarter of sales growth. Ford, with its Chinese joint venture partners, sold 190,916 vehicles in the final quarter of the year.

Ford Motor Co. managed to grow its sales in the world's largest auto market, rising more than 6% in 2020.

The Blue Oval historically has struggled to gain traction in China, but attributes recent signs of improvement to a refreshed lineup that is more in line with customer preferences. The automaker's Ford, Lincoln and JMC brands all reached double-digit year-over-year growth in the fourth quarter — 24.7%, 74.9% and 28.2%, respectively.

"The positive results reflect the company's favorable product mix that more strongly aligns with Chinese consumers' preferences for SUVs and luxury vehicles," Ford said in a statement announcing the results. "The company's refreshed portfolio of offerings includes several new vehicles such as Ford Explorer and Escape, as well as Lincoln Corsair and Aviator."

The company "fully (intends) to strengthen that momentum with a winning strategy that optimizes our product mix and localizes production of world-class Ford and Lincoln vehicles to meet rising Chinese customer demand," Anning Chen, president and CEO of Ford China, said in a statement.

Ford's luxury Lincoln brand set new quarterly and full-year sales records. Full-year sales of 61,700 units marked a nearly one-third increase over last year. SUV sales for the brand climbed 158.7% over the same quarter in 2019. For the year, they were up 96.3%.

Ford brand vehicle sales were up 24.7% for the fourth quarter but full-year sales of 324,000 units were down 1.2% from 2019. Again, SUVs were popular, with sales for the segment up 86.5% for the quarter and nearly one-third for the year.

The automaker reported that the new Explorer and Escape, respectively, sold about 10,000 units and 12,000 units in Q4.

Commercial vehicle sales, buoyed by strong demand for Ford's globally-popular Transit van as well as growth of JMC brand commercial vehicle sales and pickup, were up 31.4% in the fourth quarter, and up 15.4% in 2020. Light-truck sales were up, too.

General Motors Co., too, has sought to realign its Chinese lineup to offer the luxury vehicles and SUVs customers want to buy. The Detroit automaker sold 2.9 million vehicles in China in 2020, a 6.2% decline from 2019. The dip marked GM's third consecutive year of declining sales in China.

Detroit's automakers have struggled in the region.

In recent years, Ford's sales there have been pulled down by lack of demand for an aging lineup. In response, the automaker launched its Ford China 2.0 strategy to speed up the changeover of its lineup and create more locally-made vehicles that resonate with customers in the region.

The refreshed portfolio includes the Ford Edge Plus that launched in December, the Lincoln Nautilus, and the third Lincoln vehicle to be localized in China in 2020.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski