NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you're a global automaker but you only sell 3% of the cars in the world's largest market -- China -- you have some catching up to do.I'm sure Ford ( F) Alan Mulally is thinking a lot about this issue these days. Ford will report its first-quarter 2013 earnings before the market opens on Wednesday, and the report should shed light on the automaker's ambitions for China. You should be able to listen to the subsequent earnings conference call by going to this page of Ford's fascinating Web site. Browse around while you're there and go to the "corporate page" to find lots of information about Ford's big-picture plans. At the upcoming earnings call Mr. Mulally is likely to explain how Ford is planning to commit $5 billion to build five plants in China in addition to the four it currently operates. He'll no doubt speak about the company's determination to grow its market share to the point that eventually all nine plants will be producing year round.
The 15th annual Shanghai Auto Show began Sunday and runs through April 29 at the Shanghai New International Expo. A close friend just returned from Shanghai and said the city and its International Expo are nothing short of spectacular. As the Shanghai Auto Show was ready to commence, Ford's CEO was there to tell the world's press that his company plans to double the number of dealerships in China to around 800 by the year 2015. In addition, Ford will be launching 15 new vehicles in the Chinese market as well as debut the Lincoln brand to one of the world's oldest cultures by 2014. In an interview he told the members of the press, "Clearly this is going to continue to be the highest rate of growth for us, both in revenue and profits over the new few years. The entire team is spending more and more time in Asia-Pacific."
GeneralMotors ( GM) reported that at the end of 2012 it had captured close to 15% of the Chinese market. Volkswagen AG had an even bigger share -- more than 18%.
Analysts are estimating an increase in revenue of almost 11% over the year-ago quarter, to nearly $33.8 billion, putting Ford on track to earn nearly $134 billion in 2013. That's a remarkable accomplishment for a company that has less than a 5% operating margin and 4.22% trailing-12-month profit margin. Ford has a market cap of around $51.22 billion right, and shares were recently trading at $13.18. Ford will soon start making a new four-cylinder engine that is only 1.5 liters, thus avoiding China's nearly $300 a year tax on vehicles with engines larger than than 1.5 liters. This new, fuel-efficient engine will be sold in various nations including the U.S. beginning this autumn. Ford's CEO has decades of experience doing business with the government of China. For 37 years as an employee and executive at Boeing Boeing ( BA), he helped sell airplanes to the emerging-market giant. For the last six years as the leader of Ford, he's become more and more familiar with how the Chinese market operates.