Ford CEO Mark Fields envisions a day that the automaker’s luxury division, Lincoln, sells more cars in China than in the United States.
“If you look at the facts, today the luxury segment is the largest in China, so that gives you a good indication,” Fields said recently. “The Lincoln brand is held in high regard (in China) and when you add to that a very thoughtful approach on how we’re developing our distribution network… we see growth.”
To note, General Motors’ Buick brand sold a whopping 919,582 vehicles in China in 2014. By comparison, Buick sold 228,963 vehicles in the U.S. while Lincoln delivered 94,474 units during the same time frame.
Lincoln launched in China in the first half of 2015. The brand’s president, Kumar Galhotra, thinks the timing of the launch is “just about perfect”.
“We’re learning from all our competitors who have been there awhile,” said Galhotra. “We’ve been learning from customers who have been interacting with those dealerships.”
One of the things Lincoln learned is that Chinese car buyers do not like the “new car smell”, which is often attractive to American customers. The brand is now shipping vehicles from the U.S. to China with absorbent canisters that remove the smell by the time the vehicles arrive in China.
It’s too early to tell whether or not Lincoln will be successful in the world’s largest auto market. But judging by the popularity of GM’s Buick in China, Ford’s luxury arm has a shot. Both Buick and Lincoln build similar kinds of luxury vehicles that prize comfort and luxury over performance characteristics and driving dynamics. We should note, however, that Lincoln has entered China at a rather interesting time given that the growth of the Chinese auto market is slowing, and domestic brands are beginning to eat into sales of foreign brands.
Stay tuned to Motrolix as we bring you more on Lincoln in China.