2015 Lincoln MKC driven off a container ship at a port in ChinaEnlarge Photo
Lincoln is set to join the increasingly long list of luxury automakers building cars in China. The brand has confirmed it will start production of an SUV in the country in late 2019.
Lincoln didn’t name the vehicle but said it will be it suited to Chinese tastes, suggesting that it might be a long-wheelbase model to be sold exclusively in China.
Production will take place at one of the existing plants operated by Ford’s joint venture with Chinese automaker Changan, a Ford spokesman told Reuters.
Building cars in China for consumption there is a strategic move that helps automakers shield themselves from hefty taxation on imports, but it isn't as easy as simply opening up a factory. Instead, China requires foreign automakers to partner with a local firm run at least in part by the government.
Vision for Lincoln dealership in ChinaEnlarge Photo
Most automakers accept this barrier due to the strong demand for cars in China. Lincoln sales have been booming in China since the brand was introduced there in 2014. Last year, Lincoln sales in China grew 180 percent. The brand is on track to have 80 dealers established there by the end of 2017.
Lincoln has attempted to tap a niche in China where customers buy luxury products for their own personal experience rather than as an object to simply show off. To differentiate itself, Lincoln offers tailored services to customers as well as a focus on technology and unique product.
For example, Lincoln has a warm and welcoming environment in its showrooms which come complete with a tea room. The company also provides complete sales and service transparency. It seems to be working as Ford CEO Mark Fields has previously said China will overtake the United States as Lincoln's top market as early as the end of this decade.
Every other major luxury brand builds cars in China, but only a handful actually export vehicles from there. Volvo and Buick are the only mainstream brands exporting cars from China into the U.S. It remains to be seen if Lincoln will join that list.