Business / New Cars

Ford's Lincoln brand to debut in China

(Agencies) Updated: 2014-04-18 14:49

Stiff established competition

Still, Lincoln's timing for a China entry, along with that of other recently launched luxury car brands such as Nissan Motor Co's Infiniti and the Honda Motor Co's premium brand Acura, is less than perfect.

After well over a decade in China, three German premium brands, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, dominate the country's marketplace.

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What's more, a victim of its own recent success, the Chinese luxury auto market has become a hyper-competitive battleground. Five years ago, there were fewer than a dozen luxury car models sold under five premium brands. Today, that has exploded to more than 90 models offered by 25 brands, according to market research firm TNS.

Lawler, however, said rapidly changing profiles of Chinese customers give an opening for Lincoln.

Before, the market was so new and consumers were so inexperienced that it was "all about the panache of the product, and the (social) statement it made," Lawler said. "You went into the store and you paid whatever the price because price didn't really matter."

Now, luxury cars such as the Lincoln MKZ sedan and the MKC crossover SUV, which Ford begins selling in China later this year, are more than transactions to a newer breed of customers in China. Ford will add the Navigator to those stores next year.

"They're less about conspicuous consumption. They're really about experience and personalized service and enjoying luxury from every element - not just the product but the whole experience," Lawler said.

VanDyke said Lincoln will try to win over customers with a "huge emphasis on client experience" and service.

"Culturally there's a high degree of mistrust about what happens with service and if you take your car in for a service are you getting factory authorized parts," said VanDyke. "So, we're going to be extremely transparent about how we conduct the service."

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