By on April 12, 2018

lincoln navigator grille badge lincoln logo

While both Buick and Cadillac have a healthy lead over Lincoln in terms of domestic deliveries, the space between them is far more pronounced in China. At home, Ford moved 111,159 examples of its premium marque in 2017 against Cadillac’s 156,440. However, China’s Caddy sales clocked in at 175,489 last year — a number Lincoln could only muse about in its wildest fantasies.

That’s because Ford exports all of its luxury vehicles to China, while GM tends to build them locally. But the Lincoln brand shows a lot of promise in Asia. Ford moved roughly 80,000 vehicles in the People’s Republic in 2017 and 54,124 of those models wore the Lincoln cross. In theory, if Ford could localize and bolster its product lineup within the country, a higher volume would be all but assured. It’s a theory the automaker intends to test, too. 

According to Reuters, the Lincoln brand intends to build as many as five new vehicles in China by 2022. Officially, Ford has only said there will be a Chinese crossover by the end of 2019, but sources say Lincoln will also build the Aviator in China by the start of 2020, along with the successors to the MKC compact crossover and the MKZ midsize sedan. Following those models in 2021 is the Nautilus, which replaces the MKX.

Another small Lincoln crossover might enter Chinese production in 2022.

“Our localization plans to support the China market are on track and will serve to further drive Lincoln’s growth in China,” explained Lincoln spokeswoman Angie Kozleski. “Beyond that, it would be premature to discuss our future product and production plans or timing.”

With China still running a 25 percent import tariff on cars, Ford literally can’t compete with GM in that market by shipping cars from America. Even if the country softens the fee, which President Xi Jinping has promised, there’s no guarantee it will be enough to level the playing field. So Ford intends to build more cars in China, rather than gamble on bolstering U.S. output and attempting to export a gaggle of new models.

However, sources claim Chinese production of the first Lincoln-badged vehicles won’t commence for at least another 18 to 24 months. Ford is already playing catch-up, as the Lincoln brand only entered the Chinese market in 2015. Meanwhile, Cadillac has been there since 2004, allowing itself to establish a stronger dealer network and set up factories in-country. China is now the brand’s largest market by volume.

Lincoln wants a taste of that action and better access to the country’s 1.37 billion prospective customers, but the only way to do that under the current trade laws is to set up shop there.

What will this mean for America? Well, there is a chance Ford could eventually shift production of specific models exclusively to the People’s Republic, resulting in “American-made” Chinese exports — like the Buick Envision or the Cadillac CT6. Powertrain offerings will likely be highly influenced by the country’s strict electrified vehicle mandate. A significant portion of these new Lincoln vehicles have hybrid variants.

Really, Lincoln had no choice. China has surpassed the United States as the world’s largest new car market and businesses aren’t in the practice of not chasing down money. “As long as Lincolns are not manufactured in China, the brand’s sales will no doubt suffer continuously,” said Zhu Kongyuan, Secretary General of the China Auto Dealers Chamber of Commerce.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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20 Comments on “Chasing the Dragon: Lincoln’s Plan to Capture the Chinese Market...”

  • avatar

    Lincoln Co. Or is that Lynk & Co?

  • avatar

    I think if Lincoln only sold the Continental, Navigator, and Aviator in China, because of how vastly better designed they are than their Cadillac counterparts, they could command the higher tariff price as a tag of exclusivity. People would know it costs extra to buy the Lincoln because they have to be imported, and if there’s no MKZ or MKC to cheapen the logo, I’d like to think it could work.

  • avatar

    GM doesn’t make cars in China, GM owns a 50% stake in SAIC-GM, a joint venture that produces cars in China.
    Even then, GM makes a fraction off of China vs North America, even with more volume.

    • 0 avatar

      And Ford won’t be producing cars in China either-

      “Ford plans to use an existing assembly plant it jointly operates with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co Ltd (000625.SZ) to produce the Lincoln vehicles, a Ford spokesman in Shanghai said.”

      Here is the real issue here with the technology transfer to China.
      US companies still cannot open plants there without a local partner.
      This is BS and has to stop.

      • 0 avatar
        Trucky McTruckface

        It’s only going to stop when the Chinese have finished bilking these companies for all their intellectual property and proceed to unceremoniously show them the door. It’s only a matter of time, and with all the trade war saber rattling, it may be sooner rather than later.

        This should really be obvious to everyone involved, but the likes of Ford and GM are greedy, stupid companies run by greedy, stupid executives. They can’t see into the future beyond this year’s stock bonus.

        I’m really glad we bailed them out so they could pursue this crap while progressively deemphasizing production and sales in North America. I suspect this is all going to come back to bite them hard and they deserve their fate.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        All countries including the US don’t allow all industries and even in some cases partnerships to exist.

        The UAE is similar to China with it’s business laws. A local Emirati must own 51% of any foreign business. Yet we are not complaining.

        Australia has stopped completely, ie 0% Chinese ownership in some businesses and even the Canadians are clamping down on Chinese real estate investment.

        I do believe the Chinese need to open up their economy. But, this technology transfer into China from the West does exist, but it’s overblown.

        The Chinese have only just learnt how to hydroform, they can manufacture precision bearings, or even ball point pens. They just don’t have the technology.

        I do think we overblow what’s really occurring, not to say what is occurring I condone.

    • 0 avatar

      Cadillac decided to “bite the bullet” and invest in China assembly (via a JV as foreign automakers are required) in hopes that it would quickly translate to greater sales (which it did).

      Lincoln took the more cautious route and eschewed China production at the time, waiting to see if demand justified such investment.

  • avatar

    Lexus has made a conscious decision not to manufacture cars in China, knowing the high end Chinese consumers put cache on the imported status. Mercedes, BMW, Audi make many cars in China–but not their flagship models, where status reigns supreme. Lincoln and Cadillac should, if they’re smart, understand this. Make the MKZ and ATS in China for the volume. Import the higher end models

    • 0 avatar

      My point above exactly, but American companies never play smart when it comes to selling in China.

    • 0 avatar

      While that may be the reason Lexus gave, in reality, sales volume didn’t justify investment of building a new plant (or retooling a Toyota plant) in China.

      If Toyota was so concerned about “quality” and cachet, then why are 2 of the main sellers for Lexus, the ES and RX, also built in the US and Canada?

      As for the Germans, they build their mid-segment models in China (5 Series, E Class, A6, etc.) which have plenty of cachet (far more than the Lexus GS).

      Flagship models are relatively low volume and as such, don’t warrant investment in a new production line.

  • avatar

    So Lincoln knows they are a joke here and Ford hopes to keep the near luxury brand alive by dumping them in Chine. Great plan.

  • avatar

    So, after they chase the dragon, will the water turn into cherry wine?

    (Ten points if you get the reference.)

  • avatar

    Artist or song? Or both?

    Steely Dan – ‘Time Out of Mind’ (Gaucho)

  • avatar

    Living hard will take its toll

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