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Peter Fleet
Ford shakes up its China operations, report says
Automotive News China | 2018/2/20

Ford Motor Co., reeling in the world's largest auto market from slumping sales and the abrupt resignation of its China CEO after less than five months on the job, is shaking up its operations in China, returning some workers to their home countries and hiring Chinese citizens who speak Mandarin and fully understand the market and the culture, a newspaper reports.

The automaker also is interviewing China CEO candidates and plans to make a hire by June, Ford Asia Pacific President Peter Fleet told the Detroit Free Press.

¡°It¡¯s going to be a little bit of a bumpy ride for Ford in China this year," Fleet told the paper. "The second half will improve. We have a very clear opportunity in front of us. Bear with us.¡±

Ford Motor's China sales in January fell 18 percent from a year earlier to 75,990 vehicles. Also last month, Jason Luo quit as chairman and CEO of Ford China for ¡°personal reasons that predate his time at Ford,¡± the company said. Luo took the helm at Ford China on Sept. 1. Before that, he was CEO of Key Safety Systems Inc. 

Fleet, who has assumed Luo¡¯s duties in the interim, told the Free Press that he plans to reduce the company¡¯s 500 or so ¡°international service employees¡± in China by 30 percent. Ford¡¯s overseas operations staffers generally rotate in three-year terms, and Fleet told the paper that Ford is looking to replace some of its employees from the U.S. and other countries in sales and executive positions in China with Mandarin-speaking Chinese citizens.

Fleet told the paper that Ford is working to recruit Chinese candidates for all levels of the company.

¡°We want to reflect the market,¡± Fleet told the Free Press. ¡°Ford has always had local nationals leading the business in various parts of the world, and China should be no different.¡±

Fleet also told the paper that Ford hopes to gain regulatory approval late this year for its small battery electric vehicles being built with joint venture partner Zotye Auto.

¡°We¡¯re doing a lot of restructuring of our business in China,¡± Fleet told the Free Press. ¡°Perhaps the most significant is establishment of the national distribution. We¡¯re changing our sales and marketing plan. Whereas today we have three or four different approaches to the market, depending on which joint venture builds the product or whether it¡¯s imported, in the future we¡¯ll have one distribution channel.¡±

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