WUHAN, Hubei – Zhu Yanfeng, former deputy Party secretary of Jilin Province and former president of FAW Group, was appointed chairman and Party secretary of Dongfeng Motor Corp. on May 6.
Zhu replaces Xu Ping, who was appointed chairman and Party secretary of FAW Group a day later. Xu takes over the post at FAW from Xu Jianyi, who was taken away by authorities in March for violating Party discipline and national laws.
Both appointments were announced by the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the CPC, which oversees executive appointments at centrally administered state-owned companies.
The executive appointments, in essence a “shuffle,” is probably the biggest in the history of the Chinese auto industry as it involves the heads of the only two centrally administered state-owned automakers, and comes on the heels of anti-corruption probes at the two companies.
Zhu was president of FAW Group from 1999 to 2007, before leaving the post to become deputy governor of Jilin Province and later deputy Party secretary. Zhu’s successor Xu Jianyi became chairman of FAW Group in 2010 after holding the president position for three years.
Xu Ping, on the other hand, has been with Dongfeng his entire career. He was president from 2005 to 2010 and chairman since then.
“I will miss all of you! Do come see me at FAW!” said Xu to a crowd of employees as he was leaving Dongfeng’s headquarters in Wuhan for Changchun on May 6. A sign posted by Dongfeng employees said “Thank you Party Secretary Xu! You will always be a member of the Dongfeng family.”
Zhu goes to the second largest automaker (based on Q1 2015 sales) and one with the most joint venture partners – PSA, Nissan, Honda, Kia, Renault, Volvo and Yulon, while Xu heads to the fourth largest automaker and one mired in corruption scandals and poor performance of its independent brands.
“For Zhu, the opportunities at Dongfeng outweigh challenges as Dongfeng has become a much more market-oriented company. But for Xu, it will be the opposite because FAW as the cradle of China’s auto industry has wasted its vast resources,” commented Dr. Wayne Xing, founder and honorary chief editor of China Automotive Review and a 20-year industry observer.
Industry experts also believe that the executive changes may foreshadow the integration of state-owned automakers.