Lincoln To China: Fresh Start, Or Relaunch?
In the most recent installments of the never-ending rumors on Lincoln’s long march to China, Chinese media claimed that the Lincolns would be built at a new Ford plant in Hangzhou. Dearborn denied everything. Yesterday , Ford confirmed for the first time that Lincoln would be coming to China. Today, Ford broke ground at the Hangzhou plant, while someone says that Lincoln had been in China on the say, and that it did not work out.
“Hangzhou is really critical because of the market that it serves, and it diversifies our operations,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally told Reuters after the groundbreaking. “The customer base here is fantastic.”
The Hangzhou factory is only one of five Ford is building as a foundation of its better-late-than-never attack at the world’s largest auto market. On Monday, Mulally was at another groundbreaking of Ford’s third assembly plant in Chongqing.
Currently, the plan is to import Lincolns from the U.S. Chinese production, be it in Hangzhou or elsewhere, is not being debated.
What is being debated is Ford’s claim that Lincoln is a virgin as far as China is concerned. “This is a relaunch of the Lincoln brand” says a source in China that wants his name unmentioned for fear of recriminations. “Lincoln sold the Navigator in China in 05/06 via Ford dealerships. I was in a Ford dealership with someone from Ford back then, and I asked him why there were Navigators everywhere. “ When people asked the same question later , they were told that “these were probably gray imports.” Further questions were rebuffed with an “I didn’t work at Ford during that period, I don’t know.”
“The Navigator was a turd in China,” says the source. “No wonder they want to forget it.”
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All they need to do is bring over the Navigator, people will buy it like it is going out of style.
Lincoln is not going to see any significant sales as long as they are going to import vehicles into China which means getting hit by the hefty auto import tariff. Lincoln can't command the premiums that the added cost of the tariff would require, not when the Germans are building their most popular models in China and Cadillac to start Chinese production.