The company said in a statement on Wednesday that it had appointed industrial veteran Anning Chen to run their operations in China, where sales have plummeted in recent months. The position had been vacant since the beginning of the year when Ford's (F) former China CEO abruptly ended.
Chen was previously CEO of Chery Automobile, a Chinese state-owned company and chairman of Chery Jaguar Land Rover, a joint venture with the British automaker. He also worked previously at Ford in his 25-year career.
Ford has endured a fierce time in China . In September, sales in this country dropped more than 40% compared to the same month last year. In the first three quarters, total sales in China fell by almost a third.
"China was never treated by Ford HQ as 'Do or Die' market," said Tu Le, founder of consulting firm Sino Auto Insights.
One of Ford's biggest problems in the world's second largest economy is that the vehicle range in China is old and drivers are losing interest.
The company has not introduced any new models in the Chinese market for more than a year, and analysts say it will not do so until the middle of next year. As with most foreign automakers, the lion's share of Ford sales in China is a joint venture with a local company.
"Success in China is critical as we reposition our global business for long-term success," said Ford CEO Jim Hackett in the statement on Wednesday.
Chen will have more influence than his predecessors. Ford said its China operations will become a standalone business that reports directly to the company's headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, rather than the Asia-Pacific region.
This allows for "greater focus on the market and faster decision-making and increased Chinese leadership within the company," he said.
Chinese market becoming ugly
Ford has to contend with a broader slowdown in the Chinese market, which has been a great source of growth for years Western automakers
China is the largest market for some major brands, including General Motors (GM) and Volkswagen (VLKAF) , It accounts for a much smaller portion of Ford's business: less than a fifth of the company's global vehicle sales came from China last year.
In order to gain a larger share of the Chinese market, Ford must rapidly increase its production capacity accordingly to Le, the auto analyst.
"Ford's survival depends on its China business growing and flourishing," he said.
The Chinese market has become much tougher this year as the economy has lost momentum and a trade war with the US has started. Brands like GM, VW and Jaguar Land Rover have suffered a drop in sales in China in recent months.
Chinese consumers, too, have been deterred by the collapse of the Chinese stock market, rising gasoline prices, and new emissions from buying new cars that come next year, according to analysts.