Lincoln To Expand Into China By 2014

By Blake Z. Rong | August 28, 2012
Lincoln is seeking its fortune westward...far across the Pacific, and hoping it'll fare better in China than it has here. Ford CEO Alan Mulally announced that Lincoln will start selling its cars in China by 2014, in the biggest expansion of Lincoln in the company's history. Curious that Lincoln is expanding by leaps and bounds in China while it still struggles here? Us too. But the Chinese market is officially the world's largest, and shows little signs of slowing down. China sold 18.5 million cars in 2011, growing 32 percent from the year before. Sales of luxury cars are projected to grow from 6 to 9 percent of the total market, equal to 2.7 million cars. Lincoln wants a piece of that. It says there's room for an affluent young market, with plenty of individualization and personalization—the exact same focus it aims to achieve in America, as well. Kind of like Buick over there, in fact.
According to Mulally, the 2013 MKZ was designed with China in mind, and "the recognition of Ford and Lincoln is very, very high" in China, he said. It will be the first to be sold there, imported from America. "People have been following these vehicles for a long time. So now the real thing is to introduce the people to the specific vehicles." Well, let's hope so. Because while GM holds 10 percent of the total Chinese market with its Buick joint venture, Ford has a piddling 2.4 percent. There's no luxury brand from Ford right now in China, because there are no other luxury brands. (GM's foray into China with Cadillac has been slow, but at least it's tailoring its cars to Chinese needs—which includes longer wheelbase versions and lots of diamonds.) Right now it's dominated by the Germans: BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and those ubiquitous black Audis favored by anyone worth chauffeuring. Between those three, they control a whopping 76 percent of the Chinese luxury car game. Ford's ambitious plans for Lincoln include 15 new Ford and Lincoln models to China by 2015, building five more plants in China to double capacity, and boost global sales by 50 percent to 8 million across the world. Lincoln's share in China will be key to this. "The decision to bring a luxury brand to China is a bold decision but it's a necessary decision," said Bill Russo, an automotive adviser based in Beijing. "If you're a global company with global brands you have to have global brands in China." Some good news for Ford in that regard: its joint venture with Chang'an has been recently approved, giving Ford the go-ahead to expand to its heart's content. It'll be good news for Ford if Lincoln pulls a Buick over there—and even better if it does the same in its home country. Source: Automotive News