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Chinese buyers also appreciate a brand's history. That's why Ford introduced Chinese reporters to the MKZ at a historic temple in Beijing last summer, surrounded by vintage Lincoln posters. GM's Buick brand — which used to ferry Chinese royalty — is a huge seller with cachet in China even though it struggles in the U.S. GM sold 401,327 Buicks in China in the first quarter of this year, four times more than it sold in the U.S.
Ford, GM and others also have been helped by a backlash against Japanese automakers in China because of disputes between Japan and China over ownership of islands in the East China Sea. Toyota's sales fell 6 percent in the first six months of this year.
Su Xiaoling, a sales manager in a Beijing real estate company, said he expects Ford's share of the Chinese market to climb because it offers newer styles and updates them often.
"I think Ford cars are safe. The material they use is good and thick, not like the Japanese cars," he said. "But the price is pretty expensive."
Schoch's goal, he says, is to build Ford's reputation and convince buyers like Su that Ford's offerings are worth the price.
"Share and profits are important, but they're a fallout to how our customers perceive Ford," he says. "This is not a sprint in my mind. This is part of a very, very long journey."