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Ford to invest $1.8B in R&D in China

Ford Motor plans to invest RMB 11.4 billion (US$1.8 billion) in research and development in China in recognition that Chinese consumers are increasingly driving global innovation. The investment will allow Ford significantly to build up its research and development capabilities in the country—especially at its Nanjing Research and Engineering Center (REC)—and will help Ford create more world-class vehicles in China, for China.

First established in 2007 as part of Ford’s global product development network, Ford’s REC includes advanced product development laboratories which help the company develop new powertrains, test electronic systems, analyze the durability and safety of interior materials and improve vehicle manufacturing quality using the latest in 3-D scanning technologies.

Ford is currently building the Nanjing Test Center, a comprehensive vehicle-testing facility which features a full test track equipped with a constant-speed oval, special surfaces, steep grades and a precision steering road.

Connected consumers. China’s consumers are some of the most connected in the world, with nearly 600 million active smartphone users across the country. A survey commissioned by Ford found that 45% of Chinese drivers have used their phones, and 31% have sent text messages, while stuck in traffic. Ford accordingly is highlighting greener, smarter and more-accessible product and mobility innovations intended to reshape how consumers in China and around the world move on an increasingly urbanized and congested planet in the next five years.

SYNC, is Ford’s in-car free connectivity system offering hands-free control of phones, entertainment, climate control and navigation. Ford announced that there will be more than 1 million SYNC-equipped vehicles on the road in China by the end of 2015. This will be quickly followed with the 2016 introduction of SYNC 3.

SYNC 3 is faster, and more intuitive to use. (Earlier post.) Enhanced voice recognition technology, a more smartphone-like interface and easier-to-read graphics help to deliver an easier way to stay connected. In China, SYNC also will be the first in-car connectivity solution to feature support for Tencent’s new in-vehicle app, Chelian.

Chelian enables drivers to access popular Tencent services such as the QQ messaging app (more than 840 million active user accounts), as well as music, real-time traffic conditions and streaming radio. Drivers will be able to control the app with SYNC through Ford’s in-car connectivity system, AppLink.

As the first in-car system compatible with Tencent’s Chelian app, SYNC is uniquely positioned to become part of the lives of Chinese consumers who want to stay in touch while on the road.

—John Lawler, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor China

Responding to the needs of drivers on China’s roads, who contend daily with traffic, pollution and difficult parking situations, Ford also will continue to implement cameras and sensors that help drivers steer through traffic, monitor traffic signs and stay safely in their lane.

Features such as Active City Stop, Active Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping System on existing vehicles such as the Focus, Everest and Mondeo already help to relieve some of the stress of city driving. Next-generation versions of these systems will make use of advanced sensors to make driving even safer and more convenient.

As it implements more driver-assistance technologies, Ford is working on the global development of fully autonomous vehicles, with the ultimate goal of creating an accessible and affordable solution for consumers in China and around the world.

Smart Mobility. Rapid urbanization and severe congestion are a fact of life in China: according to the United Nations, China had six cities with populations of more than 10 million people in 2014, out of 28 such megacities worldwide. Together with changing consumer demographics and preferences, this makes China an ideal place to introduce innovations aimed at improving urban mobility—part of Ford’s global Smart Mobility plan to deliver the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data. (Earlier post.)

Ford’s partnerships with leading-edge companies—such as a recently completed project with Dida, China’s leading carpooling service—are a key element of the company’s efforts to change the way the world moves with comprehensive transportation solutions.

Through the Dida “CityRide” project, drivers of Ford vehicles in the pilot cities of Beijing and Shanghai registered as users of Dida Pinche, a carpooling app, offering to carpool with passengers on their morning and evening commutes. During the month-long campaign, Ford and Dida offered 170,000 rides to people in the two pilot cities, with the rides adding up to a total of 2.56 million kilometers traveled. Through the CityRide project, by carpooling, drivers and riders helped cut carbon dioxide emissions by 700 metric tons.

For owners of vehicles, the challenges of navigating a megacity are not confined to the daily commute. Recognizing the challenge of finding conveniently located dealerships and service centers in large cities, Ford is launching a new, convenient and flexible way to provide quick vehicle service to its customers in China through its global Quick Lane service model.

Ford’s commercial vehicle investment Jiangling Motor Corporation opened its first Quick Lane outlet in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, earlier this month. JMC will open 20 Quick Lane outlets across China by the end of next year. Ford’s joint venture partner Changan Ford is currently working on adapting the service for its customers as well. When launched, these new conveniently-located outlets will provide basic vehicle servicing such as oil changes and other routine maintenance, making vehicle ownership even easier for customers.

Ford also is making it easier for customers to experience the Ford brand and purchase a Ford vehicle by making it possible to buy a vehicle online. Through its store presence on Tmall.com, a leading online business-to-consumer sales platform, customers can learn more about Ford and order vehicles like the exciting Mustang GT and extraordinarily capable Ford Everest with a click. Between April and September this year, Ford’s Tmall store has already attracted 4.8 million hits.

Ford’s New Energy Vehicles in China. Starting in 2016, Ford will expand consumers’ choice of fuel efficient vehicles in China with two new New Energy Vehicles (NEVs): the Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and the Ford Mondeo hybrid electric vehicle. The C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid and Mondeo hybrid will complement Ford’s growing range of vehicles powered by Ford’s efficient EcoBoost gasoline engines. More than 80% of Ford passenger cars in China are available with EcoBoost engines, up from 20% just five years ago.

Greening manufacturing. Due in part to advanced treatment and reuse technology, Ford’s multiple assembly plants in Chongqing reused 250,000 cubic meters of water in 2014; compared with 2011, Ford used 36% less water per vehicle produced in China in 2014. In addition, for every car produced in China last year, the company sent 86% less waste to landfills compared to 2011, and used 19% less energy. In 2014 alone, Ford’s China manufacturing operations saved 160 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, enough to power more than 187,000 Chinese homes for a year.

MyEnergi Lifestyle. Ford also is working on ways to help reduce customers’ environmental impact through cooperation with leaders in the home appliance, renewable energy and power management industries. The MyEnergi Lifestyle pilot program in Shanghai and Beijing is designed to demonstrate the real-world impact of energy-saving products by showing how combining renewable energy sources, efficient home appliances and a plug-in vehicle can significantly reduce families’ energy costs and carbon footprint.

The MyEnergi Lifestyle model for China, created by Ford and researchers from The Georgia Institute of Technology, predicts approximate cumulative savings of 63% in energy costs—a 40% and 69% drop in electric and gasoline bills, respectively, for estimated annual savings of RMB 9,400 (US$1,500)—and a 45% decrease in CO2 output, for a total reduction of 6,828 kilograms. The model also predicts a significant impact on reducing emissions that lead to pollution, including a decreased output of harmful PM2.5 and PM10 by approximately 32% and 35%, respectively, and a reduction of both nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions by 38%.

The MyEnergi Lifestyle program complements Ford’s long-standing efforts to give back to communities in China. For example, Ford has been supporting environmental leaders and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in China, awarding more than RMB 18 million (US$2.9 million) in grants to more than 350 NGOs through its Conservation & Environmental Grants program for more than 15 years.

The company also announced it plans to invest an additional RMB 50 million (US$7.9 million) over the next five years to continue growing its community programs in China.


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