Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) announced Monday morning that Jason Luo, the board chair and chief executive of Ford China, resigned effective immediately. Luo joined Ford in September of last year.
Ford did not announce a permanent replacement but did say that group vice-president and president of Ford Asia Pacific, Peter Fleet, will assume Luo’s responsibilities until a replacement is brought on board.
Fleet said in a statement:
Jason offered his resignation for personal reasons that predate his time at Ford. Ford accepted Jason’s resignation as the right way for him and the Company to proceed. Jason’s decision was not related to the business strategy or performance of Ford China, which remains robust, with a bright future ahead. We continue to act in the best interest of our company, employees, and stakeholders.
Ford has struggled in China, and the company hired Luo to turn China sales around. Last year Ford sold 1.19 million vehicles in China, down 6% from 2016 sales of 127.27 million units. December sales were down 9% year over year.
Most of Ford’s sales in China are made through its joint ventures (JVs) with Changan and Jiangling. The Changan JV saw sales drop 14% year over year in 2017 to 826,740 units. Of seven models sold by the JV, only Mondeo posted a year-over-year gain, and that gain was just 2%. Ford Focus sales fell 30% last year, EcoSport sales fell 28% and Edge sales dropped 13%.
The Jiangling JV posted a sales increase in 2017, up 11% year over year to 292,942 units. Light truck sales accounted for more than a third of all JV sales in China last year.
Lincoln sales rose 66% last year as the Continental took off and sales of vehicles imported into China rose 7%. But those two totaled fewer than 75,000 units.
Luo’s resignation cannot have had anything to do with Ford’s declining numbers in China. After all, he’d only been there a few months. And the announcement’s wording suggests that Luo did not disagree with the company’s strategy of making China the central point of Ford’s push into the electric car market.