Ford Plans Lincoln Facelift for China

Ford’s (NYSE:F) Lincoln brand may need a facelift before it suits the tastes of luxury vehicle-buyers in China, and the insides may need a little mixing up too, to suit China’s luxury passengers.

Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand, had once been a top luxury brand in the U.S., but that hasn’t been the case in recent years. With more competing luxury brands, like Toyota’s (NYSE:TM) Lexus and Volkswagen’s Audi, Lincoln lost a significant amount of sales. In response, Ford began a campaign to re-brand Lincoln and re-ignite sales under the original Lincoln Motor Co. name. Ford’s goal was to make Lincoln a global brand and to turn around sales.

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Diminishing sales

In 1990, Lincoln sales peaked at 231,660 vehicles. Illustrating Lincoln’s decline, sales in 2012 reached 82,510 vehicles. Despite an exciting summer for Lincoln, when sales were up 40 percent, deliveries actually fell 12 percent in December, when luxury vehicles could normally be expected to sell well. For comparison, Lincoln’s top competing luxury brand, BMW, sold 281,460 vehicles in 2012, more than triple what Lincoln sold…

Here’s how Ford has traded over the past 3 months (up 39.92%):

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Going global

Re-branding Lincoln, investing $1 billion in the brand, coming out with a new line-up of models, and pushing a new ad campaign might be a few good ways to boost popularity of the brand in some markets. But if Lincoln wants to truly go global, it will have to adapt to satisfy the tastes of different markets.

As China’s economy grows more and more, the market for luxury vehicles can be expect to expand, and Ford wants the opportunity to get a foot in the door with Lincoln. One problem with the new Lincoln models is that they don’t entirely suit the tastes of China’s luxury car buyers. For one, many of the buyers would be driven by chauffeurs, and features in the cars would need to be arranged to suit the different dynamics of that arrangement. The models, with their low-profiles headlights, may even need a facelift to meet the different tastes of Chinese consumers — even the Lincoln grille may need to be adjusted.

Just what Lincoln will do to ensure it can expand to become a global brand is uncertain, but it’s clear that Ford is making a significant investment in the brand, with Lincoln’s first Super Bowl advertisement planned for this year.

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