Fri | Mar 23, 2018

In a first, Ford to import Focus small car from China

Published:Wednesday | June 21, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this January 12, 2015, file photo, Ford vehicles sit on the lot at a car dealership, in Brandon, Florida. Ford Motor Company will export vehicles from China to the United States for the first time starting in 2019.

Ford Motor Company will export vehicles from China to the United States for the first time, starting in 2019.

Ford said Tuesday it plans to move production of its Ford Focus small car from the US to China, where it already makes the Focus for Chinese buyers.

Sales of small cars have dropped sharply in the US and companies are seeking to cut costs making them. Ford's president of global operations, Joe Hinrichs, said the move to China will save the company US$1 billion, including US$500 million for cancelling plans to build the Focus in Mexico.

Wary of the response from President Donald Trump, who has criticised Ford for making vehicles outside the US, Ford said the move won't cost US jobs. The suburban Detroit plant that currently makes the Focus will be converted late next year to produce the Ford Ranger pickup and Ford Bronco SUV.

Hinrichs said Ford's research shows that customers - who are used to phones and other gadgets from China - care more about product quality than where their vehicles are made.

Ford also said Tuesday that it plans to invest US$900 million in its Kentucky truck plant in Louisville to make the new, aluminium-sided Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs. Those vehicles will go on sale this fall and will be exported to more than 55 markets globally, the company said. The investment will secure 1,000 jobs at the Kentucky plant.

Plans for Focus production have bounced around over the last few months as Ford tries to squeeze some profits from the ailing small-car segment. US Focus sales were down 20 per cent through May, hurt by low gas prices and consumer preference for SUVs.

In January, the company announced it would cancel a new plant in Mexico and, instead, use capacity at another plant in Mexico to build the Focus. But over the last few months, Hinrichs said, Ford decided it could save another US$500 million in tooling and other manufacturing costs if it moved production to China.

Hinrichs said last month's departure of former CEO Mark Fields had no bearing on the decision, which was in the works for some time.

- AP