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Ford says China sales grew 46 percent in 2005, sees big '06 growth

The Detroit News

BEIJING -- Ford Motor Co. brand sales in China rose 46 percent last year to 82,225 vehicles, and the U.S. carmaker forecast further growth in the year ahead.

That growth beat the local car industry, whose sales expanded about 14 percent last year, according to data provided by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

All told, sales of Ford vehicles and the company's affiliated brands in China totaled more than 220,000 units, Mei Wei Cheng, Ford Motor China Ltd.'s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. No percentage change was provided.

The best-selling brands were Lincoln, Land Rover, Volvo and Jaguar, the company said. The Volvo S40 and XC 90 and the Jaguar XJC8L and XJ6L were best-selling luxury models.

"For Ford Motor Company in China, 2005 represented a record year of sales increases," said Cheng in the statement. "We're quite confident that Ford Motor Company as a whole will again see a significant growth in total sales volume in China in 2006."

Cheng didn't give a specific target for sales growth this year.

Ford still lags far behind General Motors Corp. and Germany's Volkwagen AG in China.

GM said on Jan. 4 that its China sales in 2005 rose 35.2 percent to a record 665,390 vehicles, showing it had surpassed VW, which reported it had sold 570,876 vehicles in China last year without providing a percentage change.

New products, an expanded dealer network, and support from Ford's auto financing arm in China will help maintain the company's strong sales growth, Cheng said.

Ford has been expanding its manufacturing facilities and launching new products with a more than $1 billion investment in China, the statement said.

By the end of 2005, the number of Ford dealers in China totaled 150, up from 100 a year earlier, the company said.

Changan Ford Automobile Co., Ford Motor's and Changan Automotive Group's 50-50 flagship joint venture, registered record sales of 61,013 units last year, up 41 percent from 2004, the statement said.

It aims to expand the production capacity at Changan Ford to approximately 360,000 units by the first half of 2007.

On the commercial vehicle front, sales of the Ford Transit series produced by Jiangling Motors Co., in which Ford owns a 30 percent stake, rose 48 percent from a year earlier to 18,000 units last year.

That pushed total sales at Jiangling Motor to over 70,000 units in 2005, the best year ever for the Shenzhen-listed company, the statement said.

China's auto market has slowed since its peak levels in 2003, after the government tightened credit in this sector. But the market picked up pace from the second quarter of last year partly because of robust sales of small cars.
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