Ford readies Lincoln launch in China by 2014

Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:12am EDT
 
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By Deepa Seetharaman and Norihiko Shirouzu

BEIJING (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) will launch its Lincoln brand in China within two years as it races to catch up with rivals in the world's largest auto market and home to a growing number of luxury buyers.

The additional investment to launch Lincoln, which Ford did not disclose, comes on top of around $5 billion that the U.S. automaker has spent since 2006 in a market where it lags some way behind General Motors (GM.N: Quote) and Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote).

As Ford builds its top-tier nameplate, it is also developing a low-cost car under the mainstream brand to appeal to more price-sensitive consumers in the fast-growing cities in western China. This vehicle will compete with GM's Sail car.

The U.S. automaker, which joins several other companies looking to expand or launch luxury auto brands in China, is building its dealership network from scratch and will begin selling Lincoln vehicles in the second half of 2014.

"The brand in China could be a bright spot for Lincoln globally," Ford's global marketing chief Jim Farley said during a Beijing media event on Tuesday. "We have a chance to be different here."

To succeed in China, Ford said it will slowly court dealers who can help burnish Lincoln's image. Ford is also in the early stages of reviving the brand's stale image in the United States, where sales peaked two decades ago.

Ford will launch a refashioned MKZ sedan in the United States this year in a bid to attract younger, more affluent buyers. Much of the design, including push-button transmission, was influenced by Chinese consumer tastes.

"We're trying to revitalize the Lincoln brand image and the sales and satisfaction image in the U.S.," said Dave Schoch, Chairman and CEO of Ford Motor China. "Here we have a clean sheet of paper. We don't have the legacy issues."   Continued...

 
Dave Schoch, chairman and CEO of Ford Greater China, poses in Ford's booth in Taipei June 4, 2012. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang