Lincoln Brand Heads to China in 2014

Ford’s luxury brand set to expand globally.

The Ford Motor Company announced this week that its Lincoln brand will be made available to Chinese consumers beginning in the second half of 2014. Ford’s luxury brand has yet to crack the world’s largest car-buying market, presenting a distinct disadvantage to the automaker. The company plans to form an independent dealer network in China to appeal to affluent Chinese customers.

Lincoln’s Global Push

Ford CEO Alan Mulally.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally.

Ford Motor Company President and CEO Alan Mulally made the announcement on Tuesday in Beijing, China’s capital. Mulally stressed that Lincoln will play “an important part” in helping the automaker expand in Asia and to serve customers in the luxury market. Beginning in the fourth quarter of this year, Ford will begin meeting with interested dealers that want to take on a Lincoln showroom. (see Lincoln Bets That China Investment Will Pay Off)

Ford’s Jim Farley — Group Vice President, Global Market Sales and Service — noted that luxury vehicle buyers are increasingly “younger and fast-changing,” while also appreciating the heritage of established luxury brands. The Lincoln brand was named for America’s 16th president and was founded by Henry M. Leland in 1917. Henry Ford purchased Lincoln in 1922 to help the budding Ford Motor Company reach luxury car buyers.

Luxury Brand Competition

Lincoln will face stiff competition in China with such German brands as BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz always popular with Chinese consumers. Cadillac, GM’s luxury brand, has a long head start on Lincoln and Buick, GM’s near-luxury brand, has a history in China that dates to when emperors ruled the land. Yet, Ford believes that its innovation and customer service will win Chinese consumers, an edge it has yet to see in the United States.

Ford is investing heavily in China and plans to double its passenger vehicle capacity to 1.2 million units annually on the strength of opening five new plants there over the next few years. The expansion represents Ford’s largest in 50 years and will give the company an annual build capacity of 8 million vehicles by the middle of this decade. That represents a 50 percent increase from just 2010.

Ford’s aggressive growth in China will yield a total of 15 new Ford-brand vehicles and 20 powertrains within three years. Numbers for Lincoln have yet to be announced.

New Lincoln Products

Ford’s commitment to Lincoln will be further enhanced when the 2013 Lincoln MKZ and MKZ Hybrid debut. In a 2012 American Customer Satisfaction Index, Lincoln finished on top, beating out Lexus for the highest score ever. It is these kinds of products and survey results that Ford hopes will resonate with Chinese consumers, individuals that the company says value heritage and excellence.

Media courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.