Ford hopes to nab the attention of Chinese customers by unveiling a new midsize sport utility vehicle specifically designed for the region, placing an emphasis on more space for less money — a concept which would likely be appreciated worldwide. However, the model isn’t entirely new. The automaker is actually reviving the Ford Territory, an Australian-market crossover based on the defunct Falcon.
It’s a departure from the trend of Western manufacturers focusing on China’s appetite for luxury vehicles. Still, Ford may have missed its opportunity there. Chinese consumers swarmed Buick like flies on a carcass; Ford wasn’t so fortunate. It performed abysmally in The People’s Republic this year, posting 400,443 sales for the first half of 2018. That represents a 25 percent slip compared to last year’s volume and the worst first half since 2001.
Colossal Chinese tariffs on American automobiles haven’t helped, and Ford has already said it won’t raise prices to counter them. It seems eager to plant roots in China, like every big automaker, and intends to launch a new version of Focus, Escort, and a swath of crossovers over the next year as part of a much bigger plan to get 50 fresh models into the market by 2025.
Ford doesn’t seem interested in competing with Buick, which remains the American brand du jour in China. Instead, it seems to be targeting other Chinese brands emphasizing value. “The Territory is a breakthrough for Ford in China in terms of our ability to successfully compete with Chinese automakers for millions of customers that we do not currently serve,” explained Peter Fleet, chairman and CEO of Ford China.
Ford anticipates the Chinese market growing to double the size of U.S. market in a few years, so it’s is chasing mainstream volume, hopeful that betting on the country’s fast-growing middle class will pay off. The company’s stripped-down Territory is estimated to cost around $22,000, a starting price you’d expect on a much smaller vehicle.
Jim Farley, Ford’s vice president and president of global markets, explained to the Detroit Free Press the importance of growing the business in Asia.
“This is Ford competing in lower price points than we have in the past. And this is a completely indigenous product. It is not derived from a Ford product elsewhere. It was developed by our local partners. This is not a One Ford product. This is a China-only product,” Farley said. “This is a new nameplate, a new product and it competes differently than in the past. It has a large interior size and a lower price. This will be one of several vehicles we’ll be launching in the next several months.”
Co-developed with Jiangling Motors Corp and available in three powertrain choices, including a plug-in and 48-volt mild hybrid version, the Territory is a vehicle we’re unlikely to see in North America in any incarnation. That’s a shame for the manufacturer, as it seems like something America’s Breadbasket would eat up, regardless of its country of origin.
[Images: Ford Motor Co.]