By Norihiko Shirouzu
BEIJING (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co said on Friday it will next year start selling a big American pickup truck in China where the vehicles are mostly used by construction and other such workers and a culture of recreational and personal use is only just emerging.
The Dearborn, Michigan automaker said it aimed to bring “a new level of capability to China’s off-road enthusiasts” with the F-150 Raptor.
Ford said in a release it planned to display the Raptor truck at the Beijing auto show which opens on Monday.
According to the company, the truck is equipped with a 3.5-liter turbo-charged V6 engine that produces the power of a V8 engine with the fuel economy of a V6.
A Ford spokesman said fuel economy numbers for the China-bound truck were not available, nor was the truck’s price tag.
The F-150 Raptor, unlike the standard F-150 truck, is a “purpose-built” vehicle and is more for personal use. The truck is 15 cm wider than the standard F-150, which Ford said creates “a more purposeful stance.”
Ford said the truck’s exterior design was “about projecting an image,” while “the interior design is about creating a comfortable place for driver and passengers to enjoy their time, both on- and off-road.”
Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based consulting firm Automotive Foresight, said the timing of Ford's decision to launch the Raptor was “not bad at all”.
The launch was probably timed in anticipation of the day China significantly loosens traffic control restrictions that ban pickup trucks from densely populated urban areas.
Zhang said China’s pickup market, which generated sales of about 200,000 vehicles last year, could start growing rapidly if those truck traffic controls are relaxed.
“It took more than 10 years for pickup truck sales to hit the 200,000 vehicle mark from levels around 120,000,” Zhang said.
“If those traffic rules are relaxed significantly, the market could quickly grow to a million vehicles a year or significantly more.”
(Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel)