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Ford Motor introduces new head for the fight against the China Division



Shanghai

Ford engine
Co.


F 2.14%

hired Chen Anning, the veteran of the auto industry, to lead his China business as part of an effort, a much needed turnaround in the largest auto market to create the world.

Ford is also making China, previously part of its Asia-Pacific division, an independent business entity, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. Together, the steps would "accelerate Ford's return to profitable growth in China," the company said.

"Success in China is critical as we reposition our global business for long-term success," said Jim Hackett, Ford's Chief Executive. "With today's measures, we are strengthening our commitment to the Chinese market and reorganizing our international markets, to strengthen their performance. "

Mr. Chen replaces Jason Luo, who retired in January after less than six months for personal reasons.

Ford has struggled in China, where customers are turning away from the aging product range. Ford's sales in the country fell 6% last year compared to 201

6, falling 30% year-on-year in the first nine months of 2018.

And the worst may not have been the over-selling business, which plunged 43% year-on-year in September, part of a general slowdown in the Chinese auto market. Chinese car sales fell 8% in the third quarter, according to the state-backed Chinese Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Ford launched an ambitious turnaround plan in China in December, envisaging the introduction of 50 new models by 2025. The project came to an almost instant standstill after Mr. Luo's departure.

Mr. Chen worked for Ford for 17 years, before assuming the role of Jaguar Land Rover Automotive in China eight years ago. He later became CEO of Chery Automobile Ltd. He left Chery last month for personal reasons, Chery said in a statement. Like Ford, the state-owned Chery is struggling as the Chinese auto market becomes more competitive; Sales fell by about one fifth between 2012 and 2017.

Mr. Chen's main mission is to implement Ford's local restart, an effort that executives expect to see results in 2019, as new products tailored to the Chinese market come to the showrooms. Its immediate challenge is to halt a decline in which Ford crashed from sixth place four years ago to 18th in the first quarter of 2018 in the first quarter of 2018, according to market research firm LMC Automotive

New models are due earlier this month to win back Chinese buyers. Territory's medium-size off-road vehicle targets buyers in smaller Chinese cities, where Ford had limited representation so far.

Ford is also building a local joint venture with local manufacturer Zotye Auto to build electric cars – another bid to reach unused corners of the market – and is poised to begin local production of high-quality Lincoln vehicles next year. Vehicles to start.

Write to Trefor Moss at Trefor.Moss@wsj.com


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