Lincoln stays competitive in China by meeting premium demands of the market

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 14, 2016

Signifying the importance of the Chinese auto market, some companies have recently introduced models that were specifically designed to meet Chinese preferences. One such car is the reborn Lincoln Continental. The new car is designed to be chauffeur-driven, with its long wheelbase and spacious rear seats, a fact that would be appreciated by the high-end Chinese customer this car is obviously designed for.

This premium treatment for the rear seat passenger is shown in the feel of the leather seats as well as a "chauffeur" button. Lincoln China deputy general manager of marketing Pei-Wen Hsu explains that Chinese customers have very high demands specifically in the areas of craftsmanship, fit and finish.

The new Lincoln was refined with those premium requirements in mind. The leather in Continentals for the Chinese market was made to feel tighter. This is because the American preference for plush seats is seen as sloppy by Chinese standards.

While the cars are being transported by boat to China, carbon sheets are placed inside each car to absorb that chemical smell of new cars that are loved by the Americans but are repelling to the Chinese. Hsu explains that the new car smell must be removed before the car is delivered to the buyers.

Currently, China is the world's largest auto market and Lincoln is making sure it covers all the nuances of the Chinese customers since the brand has only newly entered the Asian destination. According to Michael Dunne, president of investment advisory firm Dunne Automotive, the Chinese are very discriminating.

On the other hand, General Motors is going the opposite direction by planning to import Buick Envisions and Cadillac Ct6 plug-in hybrids from China to the US. GM has separate steering calibrations, front suspension and brake rotors for the US and Chinese markets.

Americans will have 19-inch wheels and a 2.0 liter turbo while the Chinese will get the 17-inch wheels with a 1.5 liter turbocharged engine. According to Stuart Fowle, Buick spokesman, the new cars were designed to be used for both US and Chinese.

For example, everyone benefits from increasing the rear passenger room and from improving the car's overall durability, a helpful feature when the car is traversing rough roads as well as in driving past smoother roads in other countries.

Fowle added that GM's country-specific enhancements are usually done for regulatory requirements. This explains why only US model of the Envision comes with roof rails or a trailer hitch because these are banned in China. Similarly, China-bound Continentals will have turn-signal lenses with a different color from those intended for the US. BMW has a slightly different approach.

The company builds slightly different variations for its cars in each market. For example, its 7-series sedan with laser headlights and remote-control parking is only available in Europe and not in the US because these features are banned.

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