As the press days of the New York Auto Show come to a close, without much news for the Lincoln Motor Company, the focus shifts to China. Indeed, the Beijing Auto Show is set to open over this Easter week-end and does promise quite the splash for the American brand as it will set the stage for its Chinese-market launch.
For luxury makers of all origins, China offers unique opportunities: unlike the American and European market, the Chinese market knows tremendous growth led by a strong economy and a booming upper class and yet remains very open to competition. Given how difficult it can be to import vehicles from the rest of world (at the risk of being hit with dissuasive tax rates) or to build them locally (which requires a partnership with a Chinese conglomerate), the luxury segment is far from saturated and only at the beginning of its potential. For established players it can also prove to be a welcome reserve of sales: the appetite of the Chinese consumer for “exotic” luxury is behind the renewal of marques such as Buick and increased sales for German as well as specialty British manufacturers. Recently, even Cadillac threw its hat in the ring.
In those circumstances, Lincoln’s renewal had to include China and for years now the Ford Motor Company hinted at a long-term commitment overseas. Today, Lincoln is set to take the “Middle Kingdom” by storm!
Ready for a New World:
According to the Ford Motor Company, the SUV segment grew by 49% in 2013 alone, which explains why a midsize luxury SUV is the perfect product to accompany the introduction of a new brand. Actually, this new model is likely to be the precursor to the next-generation of Lincoln MKX, which should also make its way to Lincoln’s home market to replace the strong-selling current-generation MKX.
Little information is known at the moment about the packaging, dimensions or even styling directions of the new SUV, but it should marry the design of the latest MKC concept and production vehicles with the stance and chassis of the Ford Edge Concept which was released by Ford at the beginning of the 2014 Auto Show season. As is now the rule at Lincoln, the two vehicles should share little more than their engineering prowess and remain very distinctive.
From the teaser image above, we can distinguish a sportier version of the MKC’s design, which hints at different roles in the line-up for each vehicle: while the MKC would be the tourer, luxury-oriented one, the new MKX would be the younger, sportier alternative.
Other images released by Lincoln on social media sites ahead of the opening of the Beijing Auto Show confirm that feeling: the side view reveals a more compact design than the tall and wide MKC, with strong character lines and clean sides. The conceptual side-view mirrors house a very distinctive version of the classic LED lighting strip, and (although it is difficult to see in that image) the wheel wells are lined with black cladding that increase the visual height of the vehicle.
Out back, the shape of the tail light is also more aggressive but it retains the full-width design shown on all Lincoln concepts and new production vehicles since the 2012 Lincoln MKZ Concept. Also, the integrated spoiler and recessed backlight contrast with the more sedate appearance of the MKC.
A New Concept… of Stores:
In addition to bringing a new vehicle to the Chinese market, Lincoln promises to woo its affluent prospects with a whole new way of conducting business: as revealed in a set of teaser images and a mystery-filled video, the brand intends to bring dealerships centered around the individual customer experience and calibrated around the hotel experience. Indeed, that seems to be a natural continuation of the “Concierge” and “‘Black label” marketing strategies implemented by Lincoln in the North American market.
Designed like a high-end hotel lobby, the Lincoln Space (whose facade reveals an intricate mesh of Lincoln logos) promises a unique experience: from a license plate recognition system that will allow personalized service to start even before the customer has come out of his car, to a special space dedicated to the personalization of your next Lincoln (not unlike Tesla’s revolutionary customer experience), everything will be unique. It sure will be interesting to see which measures make their way to the North American dealer strategy, and how this eminentely “Downtown” message can be married to the more traditional rural markets in the United States.
Either way, Lincoln has set the bar high for its Beijing Auto Show debut this week-end, and we will keep an eye out for more news.
- Lincoln Launches in China, at Lincoln Media Center (with videos)
- Possible MKX teased as Lincoln confirms China expansion, at Autoblog.com