Sales by Ford and its joint ventures in China fell 26.1% year on year to 567,854 vehicles in 2019.

The fourth quarter slump was somewhat better – down 14.7% to 146,473 and up 11.8% over the third quarter.

Anning Chen, president and CEO, Ford Greater China, said: “2019 was a challenging year for the Chinese automotive market and for Ford. While our sales declined primarily in the value segment, the decline continued to narrow in the second half and saw the stabilisation of our shares in the high to premium segments.

“The pressure from the external environment and downward trend of the industry volume will continue in 2020, and we will put more efforts into strengthening our product lineup with more customer centric products and customer experiences to mitigate the external pressure and improve dealers’ profitability.”

The new National Distribution & Services Division (NDSD) which handles the Ford brand sold 62,137 vehicles in the fourth quarter, down 24% year on year but up 4.5% quarter on quarter. Full year sales fell 39.2% to 253,499.

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Jiangling Motors, which sells Ford and own brand light commercials, delivered 63,064 vehicles in the fourth quarter, down 5.3% year on year.

Full year sales of 236,222 units were down 10.4%.

Lincoln sold annual sales fell 15.7% to 46,629 units.

The Imported Vehicles unit sold 10,861 cars in 2019, down 32.7%.

In Taiwan, Ford Lio Ho Motor sold 20,643 cars, up 25.2% year over year.

Reuters reported the automaker plans to launch more than 30 new models in China over the next three years of which over a third will be electric. It has also said it would localise management teams by hiring more Chinese staff and aimed to improve relationships with joint venture partners.

Models launched in the fourth quarter include a new Ford Escape – for which the automaker said orders received so far have been much higher than expected – and the Corsair, the first localised Lincoln model in China.

Bill Russo, head of Shanghai consultancy Automobility, told the news agency Ford was dealing with a “perfect storm” of trends which were not favourable to multinational mass market brands and, while the automaker was addressing the need to update its showrooms with new and refreshed models, this was taking time.

“They managed to stop the bleeding and increase average selling price,” he said of their 2019 sales figures. “Good sign, but they need to do more to localise their business model to address the growth in non-hardware related mobility and digital services if they are to recapture growth.”

Reuters noted General Motors last week said its sales in China fell 15% from a year earlier to 3.09m vehicles in 2019, its second year of decline.

Despite encouraging signs in December, automakers’ trade group CAAM cautiously expects total vehicle sales to fall by a further 2% in 2020 due slowing economic growth and the ongoing trade friction between China and the US.