Ford's Lincoln brand to debut in China in seven cities
By Norihiko Shirouzu
BEIJING (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co's premium brand Lincoln may be late to China's luxury boom, but its top executives say the upscale car market still has plenty of steam left for growth to make its debut later this year worthwhile.
John Lawler, head of Ford's China operations, said on Thursday that the Dearborn, Michigan, automaker plans to open eight Lincoln retail outlets in seven Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai starting in October. Ford aims to boost the number of stores to 60 and push into a total of some 50 cities by 2016.
Lawler would not provide a forecast for volume.
He told Reuters in an interview earlier this week that Ford was "excited about the potential opportunity" in China, which he said was poised to displace the United States as the world's biggest luxury auto market by 2020.
Matt VanDyke, Lincoln's global director, said in Dearborn last week that the marketing challenge will be to get Chinese consumers more familiar with the brand they are positive about and see as "prestigious."
Chinese luxury vehicle consumers "don't know exactly what our products are, other than presidential limousines and sometimes Navigators."
Lincoln limousines for decades ferried U.S. presidents about, including Richard Nixon during his historic 1972 visit to China. The Navigator is a large SUV that until about a decade ago was a top-seller and money maker for Ford in the U.S. market. Lincoln will introduce a refreshed Navigator in China, VanDyke said.
Some companies forecast the volume of upscale cars costing more than $50,000 in China to total nearly 3 million vehicles a year by 2020. Continued...