If all goes well, China could get addicted to its trucks the same way the US is.
Interestingly enough, it’s possible to buy Ford’s top of the line pickup truck, the 450 horsepower F-150 Raptor, in China. At the same time, buyers within the confines of the Great Wall cannot purchase a standard F-150, the best-selling vehicle in the US and one that makes huge profits for Ford. This is no coincidence as the Raptor is intended as a show car for Chinese buyers wanting to stand out, but Ford now wants to bring its trucks to China en masse because it thinks there is a swath of untapped potential.
Instead of shipping over F-150 trucks by the boatload, it will instead look to the upcoming Ranger to launch its efforts within the nation and get the Chinese hooked on trucks. Ford’s reasoning? Well, it’s all a matter of scale. While the pickup truck market only accounts for 2% of vehicle sales in China, the sheer size of China’s auto market means that the 2% sliver makes it the fourth largest truck market in the world. Last year alone, the segment grew 14% for various reasons including an easing of restrictions on trucks within city centers. Ford thinks buyers' enthusiasm for trucks when given the freedom means there is plenty of fertile ground for the Ranger to make a name for itself in China.
After extensive market research, Ford found that Chinese interest in trucks has risen as the nation has been more exposed to them via television and the Internet. Many like the idea of SUV comfort but crave a truck's level of utility to help them lead a more outdoor-friendly lifestyle. Dave Schoch, president of Ford Asia Pacific and CEO, Ford China, said, “We see an opportunity to satisfy unmet need in China – for world-class, stylish and refined pickups – and also to be a pioneer in this emerging segment.” Starting in 2018, Ford will attempt to satisfy this unmet need. A recent New York Times article followed Liu Qipeng, a resident of Shanghai who enjoys rock climbing and camping.
Unfortunately, Qipeng couldn't find a Chinese market vehicle that could keep up with his active lifestyle, at least until Ford put the F-150 Raptor on sale in China. Qipeng promptly scooped one up and claims to enjoy the masculine styling along with its capability and even mentions how his friends are beginning to look towards a Ford when it comes time to replace their vehicles. Given that the Raptor starts just shy of $50,000 in the US, it’s not exactly an affordable vehicle for every Chinese buyer who wants one, especially when considering import fees and taxes. With the Ranger making its way over, Ford is hoping to remedy that and finally crack the goldmine that is the Chinese market.