Lincoln has outlined its strategy to enter the Chinese auto market by setting up a so-called “The Lincoln Space” showcase in central Beijing. The brand plans to initially open eight dealerships in seven cities in China -- Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Xi’an, Guangzhou, Huangzhou and Chengdu -- this fall, which will grow to 20 stores by the end of 2014.
Lincoln will have 60 dealerships in 50 cities across China by end of 2016 – all of which will operate independently from Ford-brand stores. The strategy achieves a 2012 plan that aims to capture some Chinese market from German luxury rivals who has been dominating the premium market for years. Lincoln will be relying on fresh approaches to customer service to set itself apart.
Jim Farley, Ford’s executive vice president of global marketing, sales, service and Lincoln, in a statement that success in China is key to their efforts to build Lincoln into a global luxury brand. The first dealerships will offer just two models -- the MKZ sedan and the MKC compact crossover. They will start offering the refreshed Lincoln Navigator SUV in 2015.
Lincoln is planning to showcase a concept at the Beijing auto show, but has yet to set a production date. The brand is also planning other models, which might include a large sedan. Lincoln has been posting slumping sales in the United States, which is a bad case who new investments into the brand. Entering China would provide Lincoln the needed sales volume to justify spending investment in new products.
Lincoln is entering a Chinese luxury market that is already teeming with a number of premium brands. The Chinese luxury market is dominated by German luxury brands. The best-selling luxury carmaker in China in 2013 was Audi with 492,000 sales, followed by BMW (326,444) and Mercedes-Benz (228,000). On the other hand, Lincoln saw its sales in the US drop to 81,694 units last year. Its sales for the first quarter of 2014 has fallen 36 percent.
“Throughout its history, the Lincoln brand has stood for meticulous craftsmanship, fantastic breakthrough designs and a warm, welcoming personal touch,” said Alan Mulally, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company. “We are excited to bring Lincoln products and the Lincoln customer experience to Chinese luxury customers. It is an important part of our One Ford plan and demonstrates our commitment to China and to the success of Lincoln globally." [source: Lincoln]