Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Apr 22, 2014

Lincoln enters Chinese luxury car market with customised push

BEIJING - Newcomer Lincoln will enter the Chinese market later this year with a service that allows buyers to make customised versions of its models.

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Lincoln's two exported North American models, the MKZ sedan and the MKC compact crossover, will go on sale later this year, with customisations such as padded backseats and in-car scents due to China's higher expectations for such features.

At the Beijing Auto Show, Lincoln's global reveal of its MKX production model also marks the first time it has stepped beyond US borders to unveil a concept vehicle. China's mid-sized SUV market has grown 9,650 per cent in the past five years while in the US, the segment only grew 13 per cent from 2008 to 2013, according to Lincoln data. That segment also represents 45 per cent of the luxury utility market in China, according to IHS data.

The brand held several "intense" customer research clinics over the last three years in China to gain feedback and to ensure that the final execution of the brand in the market would satisfy luxury customers, said Jim Farley, executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service for Lincoln and Ford Motor Company.

Starting with 20 dealerships in seven cities this year (Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Xi'an, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu), Lincoln plans to have 60 in 50 cities by the end of 2016.

The stores will offer what the brand calls 'The Lincoln Way' and "will be built around relationships, not transactions", said Farley. This emphasis on relationships has led the brand to pump up its offer of customisation, evident in gifts of customised jackets to selected automotive media in a pre-show press conference.

The upscale brand under Ford is late to tap into China's luxury boom, but Farley said the premium car market "still has plenty of steam for growth." The marketing challenge, according to sources, will be to get Chinese consumers to see the brand as more than just presidential limousines.
 
Jeroen Berghuis, business director heading the Lincoln and Ford accounts at experiential agency Imagination, added that people are starting to get a sense that Lincoln is trying to do things differently from other luxury automakers. Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz currently dominate the marketplace in China.
 
Five years ago, Chinese consumers were going for conspicuous consumption, but are now desiring more branded experiences and personalised services, according to Farley. Berghuis said Lincoln's booth at the show reflected those elements, with a showcase of the 1956 Continental Mark II model, storytelling about the brand's history via interactive videos and framed photographs and crowd control to create a gated, exclusive booth environment.

 

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