Ford China

When we asked Volkswagen last year why it was building a factory in the U.S., after having missed the irrationally volcanic era of car sales, we were told that even a 12-million-per-annum market was still too big to ignore. A report in Reuters paints Ford's situation in China somewhat the same way: Ford is only now attacking the Chinese market, building plants and increasing local capacity there, after numerous other players have established their positions.

Nevertheless, there's still much to play for. Whereas our market is expected to hang around in the 12- to 15-million-unit range, China's market is predicted to hit 30 million cars per year by 2020. Said one analyst, "People are saying the Asia Pacific auto industry by 2020 is half the world's industry." A little piece of China's colossal market will, anywhere else, still be considered a pretty big piece of pie.

After years of false starts and missteps in The Middle Kingdom, Ford sells six cars in China now, but they weren't developed for the Chinese market and haven't taken off with buyers there. Over the next three years Ford intends to introduce 15 more cars, many of them SUVs, and 20 engines to the Chinese market that can make better impressions on the locals.

That won't put it anywhere close to market leaders General Motors – which already sells 35 cars there and is lining up 60 more models, and has the preeminient Buick brand – or Volkswagen. But even the 3.1 percent share that one analyst predicted was in Ford's reach by 2020, up from 2.8 percent now, will be enough to turn Ford's currently desultory Chinese-market profits into something like a $700-million spigot once its production and offerings are stabilized.

Ford is investing $600 million and $760 million in two projects with its JV partner Changan Ford Mazda Automobile to expand capacity to 1.5 million autos per year. At the moment, The Blue Oval has no plans to take Lincoln across the Pacific.