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Lincoln isn’t aiming to elbow aside the Mercedes S-Class or Audi A6. It wants to cash in on the increasing popularity of CUVs and SUVs to grab a slice of what soon will be the largest luxury pie in the world.
Lincoln has been researching the market for three years and built a prototype dealer facility to test and refine every aspect of a prospective customer’s journey through the purchase and ownership process.
BEIJING, CHINA –’s Lincoln brand has been struggling in the U.S. for more than a decade, but it now is looking to China’s surging luxury market as a new frontier where it can rebuild its former glory as a top premium brand.
Starting this fall, the automaker will introduce the MKZ midsize luxury sedan and the MKC, a small luxury cross/utility vehicle. They will be followed by the midsize MKX luxury CUV, an all-new fullsize luxury sedan and the Navigator SUV. Lincoln plans to have 60 stores in 50 Chinese cities by 2016.
It plans to establish a new retail and financing model called “The Lincoln Way” that strives to shift luxury-vehicle ownership from a strict sales-and-service model to one based on establishing a more individualized approach to serving customers. A key component will be futuristic dealerships that allow customers to view life-size digital displays of color and option combinations.
Can Lincoln elbow past Audi, Mercedes and, which together control about 80% of the market? That’s not likely. But it has been researching the market for three years and even has built a prototype dealer facility in Shanghai to test and refine every aspect of a prospective customer’s journey through the purchase and ownership process. Offering the right products at the right time and taking advantage of changing buyer trends could at least put Lincoln on the map in a sector that may reach 3 million sales annually by 2020.
Read between the lines of recent statements by topand Lincoln executives and they suggest the brand is not aiming to roll over the Mercedes S-Class or Audi A6, which rule the gridlocked roads here. Instead, it looks like Lincoln wants to capitalize on the increasing popularity of CUVs and SUVs to grab a slice of what soon will be the largest luxury pie in the world.
This strategy has worked before. In the late 1990s, Lincoln rejuvenated itself and raked in giant profits with one standout vehicle, the Navigator. It’s not impossible to envision a family of new, fuel-efficient luxury CUVs turbocharging Lincoln sales in China.
It’s certainly not hard for Ford CEO Alan Mulally to imagine. Ford sales in China were up 50% in 2013 and 45% in the first quarter of 2014 thanks in large part to strong sales of the Kuga and Edge CUVs.
When WardsAuto asked Mulally which of the Lincoln products would be the volume leader, he said “We’ll let customers decide.” But he then added: “When you think about small, medium or large SUVs, around the world, they are the fastest-growing segment.”
Of course, the Germans are introducing CUV models as well, but Lincoln is hinting that part of its strategy will be offering large, luxurious vehicles that are more financially accessible. “It’s about product and how product is delivered to the consumer,” says Lincoln China President Robert Parker. “We’re a bit larger than other products in the segment, so we think that gives us an advantage.”