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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.
Futuristic Dealerships Reinforce Brand Message
“The Lincoln Way is rooted in Lincoln’s heritage of personal service,” says Parker. “It is based on our understanding of today’s evolving Chinese luxury customer and our recognition that every man or woman who walks through our doors is a unique individual, with his or her own deeply personal definition of luxury.”
This message likely will resonate in particular with women shopping for utility vehicles. Li Xing, Chief Editor of The Robb Report in China, says establishing a special personal image is the main reason women shop for CUVs and SUVs. Male customers care more about performance and function.
The purchase experience will start with the dealership “personalization studio” that uses a huge screen to display life-size images of vehicles. Potential buyers see all the brand’s models, colors and features and configure a vehicle inside and out.
A tea room also will be part of the specially crafted experience created for Lincoln dealerships in China, designed to create an inviting environment customers will associate with their living room or a 5-star hotel lobby.
The service experience will start with the customer being recognized the instant of their arrival by license-plate recognition technology. Then, to ease concerns about how repair and maintenance work is performed, patrons will be able to watch their vehicles being serviced in real time via cameras positioned in the service bays, all from the comfort of a special lounge. Extended service hours and loaner vehicles for repairs taking more than two hours also will be provided.
“One of the key things we find from our research in this market is everybody is talking about luxury but very few OEMs can really put the experience front and center to provide luxury to the consumer,” says Lincoln’s Hsu.
“For me, it’s about communicating that the Lincoln brand is not a classic prestige brand, it is a progressive modern brand. When we show the product and how our customer experience works, people get it,” Hsu says.
Exactly how the vehicles will be priced in China has not yet been revealed. Lincoln says products will be priced competitively with the segment leaders produced locally in China. But because all Lincoln products will be imported from North America, at least at first, tariffs will pinch profit margins compared with vehicles built in China.
Lincoln executives are reluctant to talk specifically about costs and stickers, in part because stating any price is an invitation to bargain in China.
“If you have a price, people will bargain with you,” warns The Trends Academy’s Jin. “But if you talk about history and culture, you can counter the price.”