Chinese customers, well known for hunting down pieces of celebrity glamour, will have the chance to buy a US vehicle that traditionally impersonates that way of life – the Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicle.
Ford, the second largest US automaker, was a latecomer to the Chinese auto market, the biggest in the world, but its rapid expansion has prompted the company to try an emulate that success with its ailing Lincoln luxury brand. The firm has now announced its Chinese lineup will be buoyed by the addition of two new models, the mid-size MKX and full-size Navigator, but no timeframe for the sales introduction has been given yet. Ford is betting the rising popularity of SUVs in China will support the pricey Lincoln brand in the market – the US carmaker relies exclusively on imports, which are heavy tolled by Chinese authorities. The Dearborn, Michigan-based carmaker seeks to earn a larger piece of the pie that’s controlled now by Volkswagen AG’s Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, with forecasts putting China also as the world’s top premium-vehicle market by 2016.
Analysts believe the Navigator would lift Lincoln’s brand image in China, but starting at 1 million yuan ($161,000) it could prove too costly to make massive sales volumes – an Audi Q7 starts at around 828,000 yuan. SUV deliveries in China jumped 36 percent in 2014, far above the 9.9 percent rise of the overall market, figures from the state-backed China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show.