Warc Blog

Ford plants roots in China

9 August 2013
BEIJING: Ford, the automaker, is becoming more of a "Chinese American" company, in a process that has required tailoring nearly every aspect of its strategy in China.

Speak to BloombergBusinessWeek, Alan Mulally, Ford's chief executive, reported that protecting its prize assets and preventing counterfeiting were two essential corporate goals in the Asian nation.

"Over time, intellectual property will get more valued. The best thing we can do is work with our partners, because it's our mutual interest now, and we are a Chinese American company," he said.

The Chinese government is often perceived to be effectively forcing American corporations to share valuable secrets with local joint ventures, but Mulally asserted that the authorities are, in fact, setting new standards.

He said: "They are a pleasure to work with. You're welcomed; you're part of the fabric. "What can we do to help? What can we do to work together? There's nothing like it in the world."

Referring to how China has changed in the recent past, Mulally simply suggested that the primary shift was one of scale. "It looks very similar. Everything's bigger," he said.

By contrast, Ford's own emphasis has moved on to smaller cars, rather than the larger vehicles it has traditionally prioritised in the US.

"You have to have a point of view about where the customer's going to be. What are they going to value? What size vehicles are you going to want around the world?" Mulally said.

To make sure he is familiar with conditions on-the-ground, Mulally visited local Ford showrooms to help sell cars. "I've given the keys to four customers, and two of them I stay in touch with," he revealed.

When assessing the characteristics personified by shoppers in China, Ford's chief executive stated that they are highly informed, but also often rely on advice from trusted family members.

"Chinese consumers are very discerning. They do their research. They'll bring their mother, father, grandparents, everybody. Most of them pay cash. And they love Henry Ford," Mulally added.

To prove this last assertion, Mulally cited a letter written by Sun Yat-sen, an early leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party, to Henry Ford in 1924 asking him to start trading in the country.

Data sourced from BloombergBusinessWeek; additional content by Warc staff

 
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