Ford Motor hopes to reverse its plunging sales in China by establishing a stand-alone business unit led by a new CEO, according to local reports.

The Detroit-based carmaker announced the appointment of Anning Chen, a former Ford manager and more recently CEO of China’s Chery Automobile, to replace former Ford China CEO, Jason Luo, who left abruptly at the beginning of the year after only five months in the job.

Ford reported a 30% year-on-year drop in its China sales to 585,000 units in the first nine-months of the year, including by 43% in September, blamed largely on slow new model introductions across its main joint ventures in the country.

Its sales in China peaked at 1.27m units in 2016, thanks to strong demand for compact models such as the Focus sedan and EcosSport and Kuga crossover vehicles. Since then, Ford has struggled to keep up with fast-rising competition from both domestic and overseas brands in this market.

The reorganisation, which will see Ford’s China operations separated from the rest of its Asia-Pacific business and report directly to Ford Motor in the US, is the seen as a first step by the company in fixing its operations in the world’s largest new car market.

Anning Chen will report directly to Ford’s president for global markets Jim Farley, which the company hopes will accelerate decision-making and respond more quickly to local market conditions.