The Lincoln Motor Company has fought hard to make inroads in the highly competitive Chinese automobile market since re-entering it in 2014. To this end, Lincoln is taking several huge steps, including increasing the number of dealerships from 11 to 60 and premiering the all-new Lincoln MKX at the Shanghai Auto Show (pictured).
In addition, Lincoln will be outsourcing production of the highly anticipated Lincoln MKX to the company’s plant in Hangzhou, China in 2017. As proof of its commitment, Lincoln spent $760 million in building its Lincoln plant in Hangzhou.
Lincoln is working hard in other ways to capture the imagination of Chinese consumers, particularly the highly desired demographic of college-educated Chinese between the ages of 25 and 35. One of the company’s key initiatives is The Lincoln Way, a Lincoln dealership experience that caters to customers by providing them with a dedicated Lincoln Team and a tearoom where they can wait and relax.
It’s not just the MKX that Lincoln hopes will have a huge impact in the Chinese market. Lincoln has made significant inroads in marketing its Lincoln Continental, which they hope can compete in China’s burgeoning luxury vehicle market.
Regrettably for Lincoln, they’ll have to play catch-up. They entered the Chinese auto market with great fanfare when they launched the Lincoln Navigator in 2005 but never demonstrated consistent staying power, according to Jeff Cai of J.D. Power China.
“Had they maintained [promotion of the Navigator], they would be ahead of everyone else,” said Cai. ‟That is very unfortunate.”
With that lost opportunity in the rearview mirror, Lincoln is attempting to forge ahead by researching how Chinese consumers perceive their brand. Lincoln found that car buyers in China value luxury brands with an established history and culture, in addition to placing a premium on exterior and interior styling.
Even Lincoln China President Robert Parker was surprised to find how well regarded the Lincoln brand is in China.
“They actually held it in much higher regard than we anticipated,” said Parker in an interview for WardsAuto.
In China, the automobile industry is a big business—even bigger, arguably, than in America, as the demand for cars among upwardly mobile Chinese continues to expand. Between 2008 and 2013, vehicle sales in China exploded: the high-water mark was 22 million units sold in 2013, making China the world’s leading auto market.
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