Putting a luxury face on an automaker in a region where it's known more for affordable commuters than superb sedans is a tough endeavor.
Lexus and Cadillac, and more recently Infiniti, are facing that challenge in Europe, and if upmarket Ford brand Lincoln hopes to be around in years to come it too needs to expand sales overseas and become more relevant in a global context.
Lincoln is barely acknowledged in markets outside of North America but this may soon change according to recent comments from Ford CEO Alan Mulally.
China’s insatiable appetite for luxury cars is proving too lucrative for Ford, which is now considering launching its Lincoln brand in the country.
“We have a great luxury brand in Lincoln, which we have recommitted ourselves to,” Mulally told Bloomberg. “There’s going to be tremendous pull from China to have access to these great vehicles."
Currently, Ford sells just a handful of models in China including the Mondeo and Focus, however, the automaker is in the process of building four new factories to help triple its Chinese lineup to more than 15 models by the middle of the decade--potentially including some Lincolns.
Closest rival GM, which already sells its Buick and Cadillac models with great success in China, has 10 percent of the Chinese market whereas Ford has just 2.7 percent.
Last year Chinese consumers bought up more than 18 million vehicles, and with demand for luxury cars expected to grow a further 35 percent this year alone, it’s easy to see why Ford is keen to build a presence for Lincoln in the market.
One hurdle for Mulally and his product development team is getting the design for the new face of Lincoln right. A crack team established by Ford to fix its Lincoln brand is working on a new design language which will reportedly lose the jarring toothy grille seen on the current lineup.
The design revamp has delayed the introduction of a new onslaught of Lincoln products, though we should get a taste of what’s to come with a new MKZ concept due at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show in January.