Lincoln luxury brand headed to China for 2014

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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A little late to a party that's seen GM's Buick brand a top-seller amongst global luxury nameplates, even besting its North American sales, Ford will bring its Lincoln brand to China in the second half of 2014 and hopefully have similar success.

"Lincoln is an important part of our plan, and introducing Lincoln in China marks the next step in our expansion in Asia and our commitment to serving customers in the luxury market," said Ford Motor Company President and CEO Alan Mulally. "We recognize the growth potential for Lincoln in China, building on the growing appeal of our new Lincoln products and unique, personalized customer experience in North America."

Like Buick was, Lincoln is a brand only known in North America despite a near 100-year history, and also like Buick, Ford's premium division has been experiencing a product metamorphosis over the last few years. Its car, crossover and SUV lineup has almost entirely been updated, highlighted by a new bisected waterfall grille that lends much-needed brand identity.

It's easy to understand why Ford wants its premium division in China, as the world's largest country is expected to surpass U.S. luxury sector sales by 2020, more than doubling the current take-rate. Analysts expect annual luxury vehicle sales to reach about 2.7 million units by the end of this decade.

While it will be a new brand in China, Lincoln hopes that Lincoln will ride on its heritage as well as new advanced products.

"Globally, we're seeing a new generation of luxury clients who value more individualistic and tailored options," said Jim Farley, Group Vice President, Global Marketing Sales and Service, Ford Motor Company. "In China, the emerging luxury buyers are younger and fast-changing, and they have a strong desire to understand and appreciate the heritage of a brand- the origins of its real values such as timeless elegance, sophistication and craftsmanship in Lincoln."

Along with Buick, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are currently selling well in China, with that market's tastes directly affecting the styling and features of products now sold all over the world. Lincoln will no doubt experience similar changes to its international lineup, but the Ford also plans to introduce products specifically targeting Chinese buyers' unique desires that go beyond the usual long-wheelbase versions of small and midsize cars currently being rendered by rival marques.

So how will Lincoln make waves in a market already rife with competition? While appealing product is vital to the luxury brand's success, Lincoln promises to deliver warmer, crafted intangibles that will likely include a dealer network with very personalized service.

"Lincoln will distinguish itself by providing more individual and personalized motor cars, and a more personal and crafted experience to match," added Farley. "The Lincoln experience promises to deliver elegant simplicity, something warmer and more personally engaging."

Ford isn't talking which specific models will make the cut in China, but likely the completely redesigned 2013 Lincoln MKZ will be available at launch, as well as the popular MKX crossover utility. Lincoln has long been looking to downsize into the compact segment too, therefore it's possible the brand will introduce a smaller car to coincide with its debut in China.

That car, and other Lincoln models, will be produced in Ford's many Chinese assembly plants. The automaker is opening five new facilities with production capacity totaling 1.2 million units, while 15 new blue oval-badged vehicles using 20 new powertrains will be introduced to the Chinese market within the next three years.

"Lincoln's introduction to China represents a significant step forward in Ford's aggressive growth strategy for the country," said Dave Schoch, Chairman and CEO, Ford Motor China. "We are on track to deliver 15 new Ford-branded vehicles and 20 powertrains by 2015 to Chinese customers. With Lincoln, we will be expanding our product offering to cover China's fast-growing luxury car segment."
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Lincoln, MKS, MKX, MKZ, Navigator, MKT,

Geographic location: China

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