As cars are becoming a commodity item, a rich Chinese (and there are a lot of them) needs something to set him apart from the riff-raff. Luxury cars are a booming business in the Middle Kingdom. In 2015, more than a million luxury cars are seen changing hands in China. The trouble is, nearly none of them are American. The Chinese luxury segment is all but exclusively dominated by German makes. China has become the world’s largest market for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans. In the first eight months of the year, BMW sold more cars in China than in all of 2009. Audi is China’s volume leader in the luxury segment. And the Americans?
All of Cadillac sold a measly 10,445 units in the first eight months of the year. Daimler sold more S-Class cars in China than all of Cadillac. BMW outsells Cadillac 10:1, Audi beats Cadillac 15:1. “Cadillac’s angular styling language doesn’t seem to work for the Chinese nearly as well as Buick’s more flowing bodywork,” speculates Car and Driver. More closer to the truth, “the brand simply lacks the prestige of the German nameplates.”
Conspicuously missing from China is Ford’s Lincoln. Ford is a relative nobody in China. They came late to the market, in 2003. When they looked for a joint venture partner, the pretty babes were already spoken for, and Ford had to make do with wallflower Changan.
And what about Lincoln? Forget about it, says Car and Driver: “It’s clear from speaking with market insiders that China is not exactly eagerly awaiting Lincoln, and Ford executives privately admit that they are happy to be relieved of Volvo.”
C&D should talk to Ash Sutcliffe, the honcho behind China Car Times. Rubbing shoulders with industry leaders at the Global Automotive Forum in Chengdu, he found “a source close to Ford” that said they might make Lincolns after all. And they are aiming high. The source close to Ford said “that Lincoln will be going after BMW and Mercedes in the Chinese market, and doesn’t consider Cadillac, Acura or Infiniti as being true competition to their vehicles.” Aiming high often results in not hitting the target.