Lincoln to expand China sales network head of launching locally made SUVs
Lincoln, the iconic American luxury automaker owned by Ford Motor Co., said it’s expanding its China sales and distribution network in preparation for the launch of an all-new, locally assembled sport utility vehicle (SUV) model in late 2019 in its second-largest global market.
The unspecified SUV model, to be built together with Ford’s Chinese partner Chongqing Changan Automobile, will enable the marque to better compete with BMW, Mercedes Benz and other brands in the country’s market for luxury vehicles.
“The local production line allows us to be a bit nimble,” Lincoln’s Asia-Pacific president Amy Marentic said in an interview with the South China Morning Post. “When customers want a change for a higher or lower series, we no longer have to resort to a pipeline that involves shipments across the sea. As we add some new dealers, I think there will be more organic growth there.”
Lincoln, which announced its SUV plan with Changan in March, is a latecomer to the world’s largest vehicle market, making its entry decades after Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz.
The company began importing vehicles to the mainland in 2014, selling them for between 300,000 yuan (US$44,000) to 1 million yuan. The company delivered 24,541 units in China during the first half of 2017, up 97 per cent from the same period in 2016, and following a stellar year in 2016 that almost tripled from the previous year.
Sales of sport-utiity vehicles have outpaced compact cars, sedans and other types of models in China in the last few years, as Chinese consumers prefer the higher driving position, roominess, specifications and versatility of the large vehicles.
That’s attracted other marques like General Motors Corp’s Cadillac to make SUVs in the country. Last year, SUV deliveries accounted for 37 per cent of the total vehicle sales in China, compared to a mere 5.7 per cent a decade ago.
The market for high-end vehicles could outpace the overall market by double or even triple the speed, said Automotive Foresight’s managing director of industry research Yale Zhang.
“It’s good time to be in the luxury business,” said Marentic.
The carmaker wouldn’t disclose details of its first locally made model.
The tastes of Chinese consumers change often, which compels Lincoln to design and assemble cars that are “competitively priced with an exceptional value,” Marentic said.