Ford to invest $1.8 billion to make its Chinese cars smarter 0

Ford Motor Company announced on Monday its plans to invest $1.8 billion into developing a new generation of smart cars for its Chinese market. The money will cover research into smartphone connectivity, autonomous driving, and other technologies over the next five years.

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The move comes as a result of the sales drop in China, thanks to the slowing economy, China’s new ownership rules to limit the pollution and traffic, and other competitors in the market. Ford needs to step-up its game and provide Chinese buyers with what they want: a smarter way to drive. The roads in China are known for their traffic, so enhancing smartphone connectivity and autonomous features would allow drivers to mobile chat hands-free.

The company has already invested funds and time into researching similar technologies in the US, and it hopes to bring what it has already learnt over to the Chinese auto industry and keep developing. The country’s new car sales fell by 3.4% in August and investing funds now could help bring the market back up. China’s pollution levels are a big factor in the sales drop, but Ford is already planning a new Ford C-Max plug-in hybrid and a Ford Mondeo hybrid to battle these issues.

On top of developing fuel-efficient vehicles, the company is also working on a new in-car infotainment system called Sync 3. The technology, set to be available next year, will offer drivers: control of their phones hands-free, climate control, navigation and other entertainment features.

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Ford’s CEO Mark Fields has said he hopes the company can attract new buyers of the younger ‘smartphone generation’, who may not traditionally be searching for a car. Factors like cost, lack of parking, bad traffic and easily accessible transport like taxi-app service Uber, have put younger people off of buying their own vehicle.

The investment will mean the cars marketed in China will be made to meet their customers’ requirements and desires, rather than vehicles designed for other markets being exported over there and hoping they sell. Fields noted on Monday that Ford sees “China as a very big growth market”. It’s safe to assume Ford’s competitors are also thinking the same way, which could see smarter car sales driving the Chinese auto industry back up in the coming years.