WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co. launched its luxury Lincoln car brand in China on Thursday, just days ahead of Beijing's auto show in the world's largest car market.
Ford (IW 500/8), the second-largest U.S. automaker, said the Lincoln was designed specifically for China customers.
The company will begin sales in the autumn in seven cities with the Lincoln MKZ, a midsize sedan, and the Lincoln MKC, a small sports utility vehicle.
By 2016, three other Luxury vehicles will have joined the lineup: a midsize SUV, an "all-new" full-size sedan and a large SUV, the Lincoln Navigator.
"We are excited to bring Lincoln products and the Lincoln customer experience to Chinese luxury customers," said Ford CEO Alan Mulally. "It is an important part ... to the success of Lincoln globally."
The Lincoln vehicles will be sold through an independent network of 60 dealers in 50 cities across China by 2016.
A Lincoln team studied the new luxury automotive customers in China for the past three years and found they were underserved and their tastes were quickly evolving toward seeking luxury as a way to express individuality, the Dearborn, Mich.-based company said.
"As a new brand entering the market in China, Lincoln has the perfect opportunity to differentiate itself by creating a new way of purchasing and owning a luxury vehicle that meets the personal needs of today's new luxury customer," said Jim Farley, executive vice president, Ford global marketing, sales and service and Lincoln.
Customers in China will be able to visually explore the entire array of Lincoln models, colors and features, configure their desired vehicle, and view a life-size image of the customized vehicle both inside and out before making a selection.
The Ford announcement came ahead of Monday's opening of the Beijing Auto Show, which will showcase more than 1,100 vehicles, according to organizers.
Ford said last week that its Ford China unit had record monthly sales of 103,815 vehicles in March, a 28% jump from a year ago. First-quarter sales were up 45%.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014