Ford Motor Co, eager to grab a piece of China’s growing luxury market, plans to start selling its Lincoln luxury brand in the country in 2014.
It will be the first time that the nearly 100-year-old brand will be sold in China.
At an event at a converted 600-year-old temple in Beijing, CEO Alan Mulally and other Ford executives said they believe Chinese customers will appreciate Lincoln’s heritage as well as its new lineup of vehicles. Ford is introducing seven new Lincolns over the next three years.
“Lincoln is well known in China. Our opportunity is to fill in the blanks of what the brand is now,” Ford’s global marketing chief Jim Farley said.
The announcement was a surprise for Ford, which had previously said it wanted to re-establish the struggling brand’s reputation in North America before taking it abroad.
Lincoln was the best-selling luxury brand in the US two decades ago, but gradually fell to last place in the market because Ford failed to invest in new products.
However, Mulally said Ford has been quietly plotting to bring Lincoln to China for the last two years, and considered Chinese customers’ tastes when it was designing next year’s MKZ.
The midsize MKZ, which goes on sale this fall in the US, is the first of Lincoln’s revamped products.
The Lincolns sold in China will be made in North America, at least initially.
Dave Schoch, chairman and CEO of Ford China, said the company would consider making Lincolns in China if sales demand it. Schoch would not say how much Lincolns would cost in China, but they will be more expensive than in the US because of luxury taxes, which are based on engine size, and import duties of 25 percent. The 2013 MKZ starts at US$35,925.
Ford plans to start meeting with interested dealers in China this fall. The company would not say how many Lincoln dealerships it hopes to open, but it envisions stores with warm, personalized service that could be a model for US Lincoln dealers.