On Monday a typically upbeat Ford boss Alan Mulally told the assembled industrial bosses of the CBI how he’d had to announce $17bn of losses (or negative earnings, as they probably call them) in his first week in the job in 2006, and how he’d had been able to announce a profit this year, thanks to significant streamlining, hard work and leadership.
He reminded (or, in some cases, explained to) them how the Ford Fiesta shared around two thirds of its components across all its global variants, and how the new Focus, the fruit of Ford’s one car strategy, would have 80 per cent common components around the world.
The Chinese market is now the world’s largest. Analysts are forecasting 15-16 million sales over the next 12 months, compared to less than 12 million in the US. Ford knows that GM’s early investment in China has paid off, but it still wants a big slice of the pie.
“The way I see it,” said Mulally, “there are 1.3bn people getting ready to make a road trip, and I want them to make it in a Ford.”
The challenge for Ford and Mulally is judging the tastes and sophistication of the Chinese motoring public, many of whom are being exposed to cars for the first time, and then somehow producing a single car that appeals to them without disappointing its loyal customers in Europe and the US.
They’ve made the car, so now it’s time for some real-time market testing.