Lincoln’s dealerships in China strive to create relaxed surroundings that include lounge areas.
Lincoln will continue to expand in China this year, but the pace of growth for its dealership network will likely slow.
Ford Motor Co.’s luxury brand exceeded its target by totaling 65 dealerships in dozens of Chinese cities by the end of last year. That’s up from about 30 stores in the world’s largest car market in 2015.
But Lincoln President Kumar Galhotra said the rate of dealership openings will cool in 2017.
“The growth in the network won’t be as aggressive,” he told Automotive News. “We’re being very prudent. We don’t want to end up overdealering certain cities, so we have a very specific plan, city by city, but we won’t be doubling the network this year.”
Galhotra declined to say how many dealerships he wants in China by year end, but noted that the brand has reached most major cities, and is now focusing on smaller urban areas.
Lincoln dealerships in China also feature teahouses.
Lincoln’s 65 dealerships helped it sell 32,558 vehicles there last year, triple the amount it sold a year earlier.
Lincoln exports all of its vehicles to China, but Galhotra said it’s open to building there to produce vehicles to sell in China.
“It just comes down to scale,” he said. “At some point, if we have enough scale and it makes more sense to manufacture for China in China, we would consider it.”
Although Lincoln is a relative newcomer to China compared with its rivals, Galhotra said the brand is “very healthy” there, and is perceived to be as prestigious as Audi.
“The combination of a very strong brand and the increasing network coverage of the country I think is going to really help us this year,” he said.
Ford executives have said Lincoln eventually will sell more vehicles in China than in the U.S. Galhotra declined to say when that may happen.
Lincoln’s U.S. sales rose 10 percent last year to 111,724 vehicles, and Galhotra said he expects “stability” in 2017.
Sales will be helped by the flagship Continental sedan, which debuted late in 2016, and the introduction this year of the aluminum-bodied Navigator SUV.
At the end of 2016, the brand had 65 stores in China, including this one in Shanghai.
Galhotra said Lincoln has renewed its contract with spokesman Matthew McConaughey, but he declined to say for how long.
“It’s a long-term relationship,” he said.
The brand is rolling out updated grilles, replacing the split-wing design with a mesh pattern. The style change debuted on the updated MKZ sedan and Continental. Galhotra said it will soon spread across the lineup.
“It’s a very fine line all brands have to walk where you need to keep the design language fresh but you also need consistency in the design language,” he said. “I think we’re walking that line very well.”