Lincoln to enter China's car market

Updated: 2014-04-21 11:24

By Michael Barris in New York (China Daily USA)

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As the New York auto show opened to the public last week, many eyes were on Western luxury brands targeting China, including one US latecomer.

After years of selling mainly to North America and the Middle East, Ford Motor Co's Lincoln luxury brand will enter China by year's end. Lincoln will establish eight dealerships in seven cities this fall, increasing the number to 20 stores by the onset of 2015. By the end of the following year, the network will consist of 60 dealerships in 50 cities.

Ford hopes to snatch share from rivals who dominate China's growing premium-car market. "Their luxury market is growing so fast," said a New York show Lincoln representative who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "Lincoln wants to get a piece of that."

Jim Farley, Ford's executive vice-resident of global marketing, sales, service and Lincoln, said in a statement that "success in China is key to our efforts to build Lincoln into a global luxury brand".

When Lincoln dealerships launch in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Xi'an, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu, two exported North American models will be sold to Chinese buyers: the MKZ sedan and the MKC compact crossover. The Lincoln Navigator SUV will arrive in 2015.

The MKZ is "less expensive than our full size but it is more luxurious," the Lincoln representative said. "Even though it is smaller, it's sportier looking." Lincoln planned to show a concept for a China car at the Beijing auto show on Sunday, but had not set a production date, the Automotive News reported.

Lincoln to enter China's car market

Lincoln, which saw 2013 US sales decline to half of what they were at their 1998 peak, faces a formidable Chinese market that is 80 percent dominated by Germany's Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz brands.

Ashwin Chotai, managing director of London-based Intelligence Automotive Asia, said Lincoln is taking on a market which is "full of powerful brands that are well established in China" in terms of image, product portfolio, distribution network and local production. That said, "even a small percent swing from these brands would be significant for Lincoln," Chotai was quoted in the Automotive News.

For the first few years, Lincoln is likely to remain "a niche brand with sales well below even second-tier luxury brands such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Infiniti and Volvo", the analyst said.

UK automotive analyst Keith Lomason said Lincoln is well prepared for early success. "Ford is seeing tremendous growth in both sales and appeal in China and I believe Lincoln should emphasize the appropriate aspects of the Ford-Lincoln relationship to gain immediate acceptance with Ford clients," said the greater-China president of JATO Dynamics.

 Lincoln to enter China's car market

Ford Motor Co's Lincoln division is going after the China market, planning to introduce a luxury vehicle specifically styled for the region. Synonymous with luxury for years in the US, the brand name was on view at the New York Auto Show. Michael Barris / China Daily

(China Daily USA 04/21/2014 page1)