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Lincoln Looks For Gold In China

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Lincoln China Dealership (Ford photo)

Lincoln China Dealership (Ford photo)

jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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DEARBORN (WWJ) - Lincoln is planning to open five high-end dealerships, in four cities, as Ford brings its luxury brand to China this fall.

“They have a positive impression of Lincoln — it’s prestigious,” says Matt VanDyke, director Global Lincoln. “But, they are not familiar with our brand.”

The goal, says VanDyke, is to create high-end urban dealerships, with lots of open space and luxury amenities.

“There’s a waterfall at each entrance, with a space for a heritage vehicle, which is very important in China.”

There will be a lot of glass, which will allow customers to see their vehicles being worked on, and allow people on the street to see into the dealerships at night.

“We took a long time to study customer trends, and pay close attention to what wants and desires are.”

Lincoln will launch its Chinese efforts this fall, with three vehicles–the mid size MKZ, the MKC, a small SUV and the Navigator.

There will also be a special high-end “Presidential” trim, for each vehicle.

The three German brands–Mercedes, BMW and Audi–now account for 80 percent of luxury sales in China. Other brands, including Cadillac, are trying to for a piece of that growing market.

“China is the largest auto market in the world,” said VanDyke. “It’s very close to be the largest luxury market in the world.”

And those luxury buyers are young, averaging 37 years old, compared to 57 years old in the United States.

While Lincoln’s are sold in a handful of countries, the vast majority of the brands vehicles are sold here in the U.S. China could quickly become Lincoln’s second largest market.

Lincoln’s turnaround in the U.S. has been described as a “work in progress” as the company works to put out new products with a distinct look, and upgrade its dealership.

They will be watching the dealerships in China to see what might work here in the U.S. The focus on customer service, VanDyke says, will be a constant at Lincoln globally.

“Things that we are doing there, principles of hospitality, warmth, care are the same principles that we have here.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Email: jdgilbert@cbs.com
Facebook: facebook.com/carchronicles
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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