The term “there just aren’t enough hours in a day” doesn’t seem to apply to Ford (NYSE:F), at least for the 24 hour span on June 19 last week when the Dearborn-based automaker opened up 88 new dealerships in China as part of a push to lay out a larger footprint in the region amid soaring sales and prior to its debut of the Lincoln brand. Eighty-eight new dealerships in just one day.
In the country, Ford now boasts 750 dealership locations, a number that’s assured to keep moving north as long as Ford continues posting the types of double-digit gains that it has been in the region, which has become the world’s largest market for automobiles. Sales in May leapt 32 percent to 93,323 wholesales. To date, Ford’s Chinese sales are up 39 percent.
“The bulk of [the new 88 dealership] stores are in the up-and-coming lower tier cities that will fuel future economic development, and vehicle demand,” said Automotive News’ Hans Greimel. “About three-quarters of the outlets of its local joint venture, Changan Ford Automobile Co., are now in Tier 4 cities or smaller.”
Most of China’s auto industry growth has come from its larger cities, but the smaller cities scattered throughout the region also pose some significant potential, and automakers are now working on strategies to reach out to them. “With the growth momentum we have going right now, we expect to exceed 800 dealer points in China by the end of 2014,” said Marin Burela, president and CEO of Changan Ford. Changan auto sales are up over 40 percent throughout this year.
Ford is hoping to build small leads in areas that are primed for “explosive” growth, such as the central and western parts of the country just starting to take off, Greimel wrote. Changan Ford told the site that it “delivers technical training in partnership with 19 top vocational schools and universities across China through a ‘School to Work’ program,” in order to support its big rollout of dealerships all at once.
“This rise in sales has both underlined the need for dealer network expansion and attracted new dealers to the Ford brand,” the company said.
Ford’s Chinese operations, including its joint venture, has been a solid foundation on which the company has been growing its sales, as regions like Europe haven’t yet gotten caught up to speed with their pre-recession sales levels (although Ford is making substantial progress there, too.)
A new revitalized performance portfolio has been helping Ford lay claim to territory that has dogged it for years, with international superstars like the Focus ST, the Fiesta ST, and the new Mustang. Two of those found their way onto our list of the fastest four-cylinder models. On the next page is one with some of the company it keeps. You can check out the rest of the lineup here.
9. Ford Focus ST — 154 mph
The Ford Focus has come a long way since its introduction in the late 1990s. The model has since been spun-off into a variety of different styles and trims, and even modified to produce some astounding speed marks. The Focus ST is the fastest to use a four-cylinder engine, specifically a turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-liter EcoBoost. With that, it’s able to produce 252 horsepower and hit a top speed of 154 miles per hour.
8. Mercedes-Benz SLK 250 — 155 mph
Mercedes has updated its sporty SLK 250 model with a 201 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making it one of the faster models to use such an engine. Along with several other cars, the SLK 250 tops out at 155 miles per hour. That speed comes paired with a six-speed manual gearbox for those so inclined, or a seven-speed automatic transmission. The newer models have been built a bit wider and roomier than their predecessors, although that has come at the expense of some of the car’s capabilities. As far as Mercedes sports cars go, the SLK 250 still gets top marks for speed and fun from a four-cylinder.
7. BMW Z4 — 155 mph
The entry-level model of BMW’s Z4 roadster comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 240 horsepower that can help it hit a top speed of 155 miles per hour. That speed mark, however, is under the electronic limiter, meaning that the car’s actual top speed is somewhere above the 155 mph threshold. The Z4 is also available in different variants that augment it with a six-cylinder engine, boosting the levels of performance to new heights. For the four-cylinder option, it still makes for one of the fastest vehicles available.