Ford reports 73.3% growth in China sales in first quarter of 2021

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. sold 153,822 new vehicles in China in the first quarter, for a 73.3% year-over-year increase and the automaker's fourth consecutive quarter of growth in the market.

Ford, which historically has struggled to gain traction in the world's largest auto market, attributed the positive results to rising consumer demand as well as its product mix, which it recently has sought to refresh with locally-built SUVs and luxury vehicles preferred by customers in the region. 

The strategy could be paying off, as the company reported SUV sales from its luxury Lincoln brand were up 323.5% for the quarter, while SUVs under the Blue Oval brand were up more than 100%.

"Ford continues to deliver on its commitment to offer consumers in China the right mix of locally produced, world-class Ford and Lincoln vehicles," Anning Chen, president and CEO of Ford China, said in a statement. "We intend to fully build on these four consecutive quarters of sales growth to meet rising Chinese consumer demand with our Best of Ford, Best of China strategy."

Ford announced earlier this year that Mustang Mach-E, its first SUV built on an all-electric platform, will be manufactured in China by Changan Ford for local customers.

The growth over last year also is in part a reflection of the fact that the country was largely shut down in early 2020 due to the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. The period saw dampened auto sales industrywide, but restrictions on manufacturing have since been lifted and demand for new vehicles has come roaring back.

For Ford-branded vehicles, sales of more than 76,600 in the first quarter marked a nearly 45% increase from the first quarter of 2020. Ford SUV sales totaled more than 34,000, a year-over-year increase of 103.4%. The company reported that SUV sales were led by the Ford Explorer, Escape and Edge.

Lincoln vehicle sales in the region rose 217% to more than 19,300 units. SUV sales of more than 17,300 made up the majority of sales. Ford reported that the locally-built Lincoln Corsair and Aviator accounted for three-quarters of overall Lincoln sales for the quarter. And the Lincoln Nautilus, which just launched in the first quarter, sold about 1,700 units and generated more than 4,000 orders.

Commercial vehicle sales, too, were up. And the automaker noted that its battery-electric Mustang Mach-E, which is already sold in North America, will launch in China later this year. The vehicle will be assembled in China for customers in the region. 

Meanwhile, Ford's crosstown rival General Motors Co. earlier this week reported that, with its joint venture partners in the region, it sold more than 780,000 vehicles in China in the first quarter, a 69% increase over the same quarter last year. GM — which sells more vehicles in China than anywhere else — attributed the rebound to the popularity of luxury and premium vehicles, midsize and large SUVs and multi-purpose vehicles.

The auto industry last week reported U.S. sales numbers. Despite the ongoing pandemic and related supply-chain issues, the three Detroit automakers and their foreign rivals — buoyed by demand for trucks and full-size SUVs — posted sales gains.

GM sold 642,250 new vehicles in the U.S. in the first quarter, for a 4% year-over-year improvement. Ford saw a 1% increase for the quarter, with 521,334 new-vehicle sales.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski