Ford releases new Territory mid-size SUV in China to boost sales

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Ford released an all-new mid-sized sport utility vehicle in China on Monday, as the automaker contends with an aging product line and flagging sales in the world’s biggest car market.

The Ford Territory is aimed at mid-sized SUV customers in small but fast growing cities across China, which Ford said is the country’s fastest growing market. The vehicle was developed with Ford’s local partner, Jiangling Motors.

“Our onslaught of new vehicles has begun,” said Peter Fleet, president, Asia Pacific and chairman & CEO, Ford China. “We are taking the best of how we’ve brought Territory to market — deeply listening to customers in China and delivering what they want in style, comfort, safety and new in-vehicle infotainment options — and applying it across the business. Territory is just the beginning of more great things to come.”

The vehicle is custom-designed for Chinese customers, Ford said. Between 2015 and 2017, sales of midsize SUVs increased 102 percent among Chinese consumers.

The vehicle comes with some high-tech features popular with Chinese consumers. For example, it offers intuitive Mandarin voice recognition, which understands dozens of regional accents, Ford said.

The announcement comes days after the second-largest U.S. automaker posted September sales in China that declined 43 percent over the same month last year.

“Ford’s performance is certainly nothing shy of ugly in China,” said Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting for LMC automotive, a firm that tracks the auto industry. “While they are struggling as a group in China, the overall light vehicle market is now expected to post the first annual decline since we have been tracking vehicle demand in China (at least 20 years). Sluggish sales reflect weakening consumer confidence, amid the escalating US-China trade conflict, falling stock prices and the decelerating property market. With inventory rising, the Chinese Automobile Dealers Association is urging the government to take policy measures to boost demand, such as a tax cut.”

Schuster expects 2018 auto sales in China to be down 0.6 percent to 28.4 million units, he said.

“Ford will not fare well though not as bad as September,” he added. “For 2018, we expect Ford sales to be down 33% to around 680,000.”