Ford Motor Co. began delivering on Sunday in China its first Mustang Mach-E SUVs built in the country and sold at direct-to-customer Ford stores for all-electric vehicle buyers, the company announced.
"These are the very, very first customers to get a Mach-E in China," Anderson Chan, Dearborn-based international communications manager for Ford, told the Free Press.
The company is hosting a series of ceremonies throughout China, starting in Shanghai and Beijing, that highlight the deliveries because the size of public events is limited by pandemic-related restrictions, he said.
Ford released a photo early Sunday of one of its first buyers in China, advertising executive Jin Zhang, receiving keys in Shanghai from Mark Kaufman, general manager of Ford China BEV Division. BEV stands for battery electric vehicle.
Chan said Zhang fell in love with the Mustang while studying in America.
25 mall sites and counting
In China, Ford has set up 25 storefront sites in major metropolitan areas for customers to buy electric vehicles directly rather than go through a traditional dealership — and more sites are planned. This storefront model, in which no test-driving takes place on-site, has been popular in the U.S. with Tesla. It opened its first storefront in Michigan in 2017 at Somerset Mall in Troy.
In China, Ford began setting up storefronts in 2021 where customers walk in, see the vehicle, learn about all-electric products and place orders, Chan explained.
"We will continue growing these stores in the weeks and months ahead," he said. "We wanted to use this as an opportunity to show how we are understanding China's customers and their desire for direct access."
The Ford direct-to-customer stores are not standalone sites but, rather, located in high-traffic shopping centers that offer other global brands, he said.
"We started rolling out the stores earlier this year. This initiative will continue in the year ahead. It's very much China-specific," Chan said. "China's customers have begun to want to access vehicles through these storefronts. So that’s what we set up."
China has younger buyers, overall, that do vehicle research in advance and want the convenience of immediate access, Chan said. Vehicle service still is available at dealerships.
Chan noted that a number of major automakers in China offer this sales model, which is used by Tesla in the U.S.
China is considered not just strategically important for automakers but highly lucrative, based on its young and growing population, air pollution concerns and government incentives for all-electric vehicles.
The top-selling all-electric vehicles in China so far in 2021 are made by the joint venture SAIC-GM-Wuling that includes General Motors, Tesla and BYD, an electric vehicle maker backed by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, reported CNBC in October.
The Mustang Mach-E SUV is produced by Changan Ford, a joint venture between Changan Automobile and Ford, and manufactured in Chongqing, China.
Governments worldwide, led by China and Europe, have created public policies that spur the adoption of electric vehicles in an attempt to reduce pollution that contributes to climate change.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ford sells direct-to-consumer in China, delivers first Mustang Mach-E