Ford readies Lincoln launch in China by 2014

DETROIT, Tue Aug 28, 2012 – Ford Motor Co. will launch its Lincoln brand in China within two years as it races to catch up with rivals in the world’s largest auto market and home to a growing number of luxury buyers.

The additional investment to launch Lincoln, which Ford did not disclose, comes on top of around $5 billion that the U.S. automaker has spent since 2006 in a market where it lags some way behind General Motors and Volkswagen.

As Ford builds its top-tier nameplate, it is also developing a low-cost car under the mainstream brand to appeal to more price-sensitive consumers in the fast-growing cities in western China. This vehicle will compete with GM’s Sail car.

The U.S. automaker, which joins several other companies looking to expand or launch luxury auto brands in China, is building its dealership network from scratch and will begin selling Lincoln vehicles in the second half of 2014.

“The brand in China could be a bright spot for Lincoln globally,” Ford’s global marketing chief Jim Farley said during a Beijing media event on Tuesday. “We have a chance to be different here.”

To succeed in China, Ford said it will slowly court dealers who can help burnish Lincoln’s image. Ford is also in the early stages of reviving the brand’s stale image in the United States, where sales peaked two decades ago.

Ford revives Lincoln with glass roof and ‘date nights’

NEW YORK, Tue Apr 3, 2012 – Ford Motor Co. is rolling out new Lincoln models with a panoramic glass roof option to lure younger, more affluent buyers, as the No. 2 U.S. automaker tries to revive a luxury brand whose sales peaked two decades ago.

The new signature retractable 15-square-foot roof is just one feature designed to distinguish the 2013 Lincoln MKZ sedan in the crowded luxury market.

Ford is betting that fresh designs, glossier showrooms and a personalized approach to service will help drive sales. The MKZ, which will be unveiled at the New York auto show this week, is one of seven new or revamped Lincoln models to be introduced by 2015 intended to resuscitate the brand.

“We realize we have a long journey ahead of us, but I think we have set a good foundation for it from the product and also what we’re trying to do with the consumer experience,” said Mark Fields, head of Ford operations in North and South America, at a media event in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Lincoln was the top-selling luxury nameplate in the United States in the 1990s, but last year, sales totaled 85,643, less than half the vehicles sold by Lexus, Toyota Motor Co’s. luxury brand.

Ford aims to lower the average age of Lincoln buyers to 57 years from 65, and raise the target average income by more than 50 percent to nearly $160,000 a year.

Lincoln is also hoping that over time half of its buyers will come from other luxury brands. Currently, Lincoln’s “conquest” rate is 37 percent.

To encourage more car shoppers to test drive a Lincoln, Ford is considering initiatives like “the Lincoln date night,” Ford’s head of global marketing, Jim Farley said.