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Autofield Blog

Lincoln in China (the brand, not the Vampire Hunter)


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29. August 2012

Word out of Beijing this week is that Lincoln is going to be selling cars in China starting in the second half of 2014. In making the announcement about the plan, Ford Motor Co. president and CEO Alan Mulally said, “We recognize the growth potential for Lincoln in China, building on the growing appeal of our new Lincoln products and unique, personalized customer experience in North America.”

Which got us to wondering about the brand that, as Ford pointed out in the news release about the sales plan, was “named after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.” This, presumably, had something to do with a comment made by Jim Farley, Ford group vice president, Global Marketing Sales and Service, “Research shows that for luxury consumers in China, international credentials are not enough; heritage and excellence are also expected of a luxury car.”

FORD MOTOR COMPANY LINCOLN

Left to right, Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford Asia Pacific and Africa; Alan Mulally, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company; Jim Farley, group vice president for sales and marketing of Ford Motor Company; Dave Schoch, chairman and CEO of Ford China. (PRNewsFoto/Ford Motor Company)

Somehow, the reference to the 16th president of the United States seems like a curious “heritage” aspect, but who knows? Maybe Honest Abe has street cred in China.

Anyway, the “growing appeal” that Mulally referenced doesn’t seem to be borne out by statistics. That is, according to Autodata, last year Lincoln moved 85,643 vehicles in the U.S. market, which accounted for a 0.7% share. In 2010, Lincoln sold 85,828 units, also a 0.7% share. Not a whole lot of growth there.

And rather than looking at the 2011 sales performance of luxury competitors like Mercedes (261,769), BMW (247,907) or Lexus (198,552), it is probably fairer to compare Lincoln with crosstown rival Cadillac. In 2011, there were 152,389 Cadillacs moved in the U.S. market, a 1.2% share.

That was then. This is now. So maybe Lincoln has been growing in 2012.

Well, it turns out that through July, there have been 48,937 Lincolns sold in the U.S., which is 0.6% of the market. And compared with the sales between January and July 2011, 49,817 units, the number is down 1.8% this year to last.

So maybe it is the “excellence” that Farley mentioned. Presumably, that means “quality.”

Checking the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), we find that in the Nameplate ranking, which looks at problems per 100 vehicles, Lincoln scores 107, which ties it with Hyundai and Kia.

And it should be noted that the industry average is 102.

Rather than looking at the performance of luxury competitors like Mercedes (96), BMW (97) or Lexus (73), it is probably fairer to compare Lincoln with crosstown rival Cadillac. In the 2012 IQS Cadillac scores 80, which puts it behind only Lexus, Jaguar (75) and Porsche (75).

The good news in all of this for Lincoln is that they buy a lot of cars in China, so. . . .

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