Gary Johnson

Vice President, Manufacturing – Asia Pacific and Africa
Ford Motor Company

Ford is currently undergoing the largest growth in our manufacturing operations that our Company has witnessed in four to five decades. Most of this is occurring in the Asia Pacific region, with new Ford production plants coming online in China, India and Thailand. Over the next four years, we will be introducing more than 50 new vehicles and powertrains in our Asia Pacific and Africa region, which is expected to account for 70 percent of Ford’s future growth.

In 2010, auto sales in China reached more than 18 million – a tenfold increase from a decade earlier. To put that in perspective, that’s more auto sales than we’ve ever seen in a year in the United States. About 70 percent of buyers in China are first-time auto purchasers. And 90 percent of those buyers pay with cash.

That’s why we at Ford are positioning ourselves to participate in this tremendous growth opportunity. Over the last few years, we have developed a new business model with globalized vehicle platforms that can be adapted to specific regional needs. Ultimately, every vehicle we launch globally will be evaluated for markets in China and India, too.

Right now in China, we rank as the 13th or 14th automaker in terms of sales – well behind our ranking in the North American and European markets, where we are consistently within the top three auto producers. But we believe we’ll be able to significantly increase our presence in the Chinese market.

Two years ago, we moved our Asia Pacific headquarters from Thailand to China, because that’s where the biggest growth is. The move has given us much greater insight, because we’re able to see firsthand what’s going on in China. We understand the customers and how our joint ventures operate. We also have gained a better understanding of our supply base, our dealer footprint and how to hire the workforce we need to compete effectively.

Ford was slightly late to the game in China, in part because we didn’t truly operate as a global company until the last few years. But recently, we have focused on our One Ford plan and strategy that cuts across all of our regions of operation. Today, 90 percent of our products are global, which gives us the ability to compete anywhere in the world.

Of course, there are a host of challenges for Ford in these markets. For example, can we deliver the products we promise on time? We can have extremely aggressive growth plans, but we need to have the manufacturing capacity and capabilities to produce results.

Another challenge is integrating Ford into these new communities in a sustainable fashion. Each time we build a new manufacturing plant, we examine social and environmental factors, such as traffic congestion, accessibility within the local communities to water and electricity, and biodiversity. Many of the locations we are entering are underdeveloped, so we must consider ways Ford can help support the community.

This period of growth is incredibly exciting. The last period like this at our Company was in the late 1950s and early 1960s, so most of us have never seen anything like this – and most of us will likely never see anything similar again.