Lincoln is marketing itself in China as a customer-focused, high-end luxury ownership experience. To prove it, the Lincoln Space in Beijing is meant both as a prototype dealer and a grand show of its plans. The modernist structure looks more like an art museum than a car showroom, and the interior decor is like a high-end hotel lobby. The company says that every dealer is going to have license plate recognition technology that knows when an owner arrives, and there will also be a Personalization Studio where potential buyers can design their car with family. Lincoln is promising to have eight showrooms ready in seven cities by this fall.
Of course, a stylish showroom is nothing without cars to sell. Lincoln is promising five models on sale in China by 2016. The MKZ and MKC launch this fall. A midsize luxury SUV, a fullsize luxury sedan and the Navigator are coming later. All of the models sold there are being imported from North America.
The video below doesn't give many hints on what model is being worked on, but it clearly looks like a crossover. The description merely says: "Get a glimpse of the next-generation Lincoln Concept." Scroll down to check it out and read about the future of the brand.
>Lincoln officially introduces its brand to China today, offering an innovative ownership experience unlike any other to meet the evolving needs of today's Chinese luxury auto customer
>Designed specifically for China customers, the brand has created The Lincoln Way – an innovative new model that shifts luxury automotive ownership from a sales-and-service transaction model to a relationship-based experience model
>Lincoln will bring to China a new breed of global vehicles developed with today's Chinese luxury auto customer in mind. By 2016, Lincoln will bring five new vehicles to China, starting this autumn with Lincoln MKZ, a midsize luxury sedan, and Lincoln MKC, a small luxury utility vehicle. The two vehicles will be followed by a midsize luxury SUV, an all-new full-size luxury sedan and a large luxury SUV – Lincoln Navigator
>To demonstrate its unique offering to media and customers, the brand has taken up residence at The Lincoln Space in Beijing, a bespoke environment designed to bring to life the personally crafted dealership experiences Chinese luxury customers can expect from Lincoln
>Lincoln vehicles will be sold through an independent network of 60 dealers in 50 cities across China by 2016. The first eight dealers will open in seven cities this autumn
Lincoln, an iconic luxury automotive brand for discerning individuals with a heritage linked to presidents, royalty and movie stars, begins a new chapter in its nearly 100-year history today by bringing a completely new approach to luxury automotive ownership in China.
Marking its official launch in China, Lincoln is showcasing to media and the public the transformational products and innovative hospitality approach to ownership it will provide to luxury car buyers there when its first dealerships open this autumn.
"Throughout its history, the Lincoln brand has stood for meticulous craftsmanship, fantastic breakthrough designs and a warm, welcoming personal touch," said Alan Mulally, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company. "We are excited to bring Lincoln products and the Lincoln customer experience to Chinese luxury customers. It is an important part of our One Ford plan and demonstrates our commitment to China and to the success of Lincoln globally."
Connecting with the new luxury customer in China
The Lincoln team spent the last three years gaining a deep understanding of the new luxury automotive customer in China. This included extensive quantitative and qualitative deep-dives into luxury customer segmentations, as well as behavior models and expectations. The team used a variety of tools, including customer focus groups, mystery shopping studies, data mining and benchmarking of luxury goods and services in auto and non-auto industries.
"Our extensive study of the new luxury customer in China revealed that they are underserved in the luxury auto market," said Jim Farley, executive vice president, Ford global marketing, sales and service and Lincoln. "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."
The research showed that today's Chinese luxury customers are quickly evolving. They are no longer satisfied with luxury as an overt statement of their personal net worth.
Instead, they are increasingly seeking luxury as a way to express their individuality. They want luxury brands that can meet their personal needs and reflect who they are as an individual. As a result, they also want to build a personal relationship with brands whose culture and values they can identify with.
"Success in China is key to our efforts to build Lincoln into a global luxury automotive brand," Farley said. "The needs of today's luxury auto customer in China have been fundamental to Lincoln's brand rejuvenation globally."
The Lincoln team even took the unprecedented step of building a fully functioning prototype dealer facility in Shanghai to research, test and refine every aspect of the Lincoln customer journey throughout the purchase and ownership process.
"Bringing Lincoln to China allows us to innovate, to do something never done before in the automotive ownership experience," Farley said. "Our Lincoln customers in China will not only get the very best when it comes to product, but also when it comes to the experience they get from their dealer."
The Lincoln Way – a dealership experience unlike any other
The result of this extensive work is The Lincoln Way – an innovative new model for luxury automotive ownership designed to create lasting relationships through personally crafted experiences that make a connection with customers. Key elements of The Lincoln Way include a distinct, welcoming home-like environment featuring a relaxing tea room; intuitive personalized technology, with an exclusive Personalization Studio; and complete sales and service transparency.
"The Lincoln Way captures how Lincoln sells and services its vehicles and how Lincoln customers experience the brand," Farley said. "It completely shifts luxury automotive ownership from a sales and service transaction model to an experience model. It was designed in China based on the unmet expectations of luxury customers here, and it will launch here first."
"The Lincoln Way is rooted in Lincoln's heritage of personal service," said Robert Parker, president, Lincoln China. "It is based on our understanding of today's evolving Chinese luxury customer and our recognition that every man or woman who walks through our doors is a unique individual, with his or her own deeply personal definition of luxury.
"The Lincoln Way is our vision to treat every customer with the same level of care and attention that Lincoln brings to the design of its vehicles."
The shift from transaction focus to relationship focus has a profound impact on how a dealership facility is designed and how the customer experience is defined.
Compared with other dealership facilities that are built around the products and are often cold, impersonal and cavernous, a Lincoln dealership is built around the customer, using clean, elegant designs, harmonious colors and quality materials.
The overall effect is a warm, inviting environment that customers associate with the living room of a home or a five-star hotel lobby. Different zones and pavilions feature seating clusters where customers can relax with their family and friends.
In line with this customer-centric dealership environment is a sales and service experience that aims to surprise and delight. Different from a traditional transaction-model dealership that is all about making the sale, the purchase experience at the Lincoln dealership is designed around building a relationship with the customer and understanding his or her needs. Attentive and intuitive staff gauge when to allow for self-exploration and when to provide assistance.
The key difference is Lincoln's commitment to a "one size fits one" experience versus the "one size fits all" approach of other brands. In many dealerships today, a sales consultant helps a customer through the sales process, after which the customer is turned over to the service department with no one specifically dedicated to meet his or her needs.
At Lincoln dealerships, each customer has a dedicated team to ensure personalized service tailored to the person's individual needs and consistently delivered throughout the ownership of the vehicle.
The personalized experience begins at arrival. Every Lincoln dealership will feature license plate recognition technology that allows the Lincoln Team to instantly recognize the Lincoln owner who has arrived.
An important part of The Lincoln Way is the Personalization Studio. In traditional dealerships, customers are shown what is in stock, or they sift through brochures before moving on to negotiations. In every Lincoln dealership throughout China, the Personalization Studio will allow customers to visually explore the entire array of models, colors and features, configure their desired vehicle, and view a life-size image of the vehicle both inside and out with family and friends before making a selection.
When it comes to the vehicle maintenance process, The Lincoln Way subverts the traditional model, which customers in China mistrust. Feedback from luxury auto buyers raised concerns about being charged for unnecessary repairs, the amount of time required to complete maintenance and repair work, as well as the care given to the vehicles throughout the process.
Lincoln customers will have complete transparency throughout the process, including write-up, diagnosis and parts change. Customers can watch their vehicles serviced real-time, from the comfort of the Lincoln dealership Star Lounge, through cameras positioned in the service bays. In addition, every dealership in China will offer extended service hours and provide Lincoln loaner vehicles for repairs taking more than two hours.
In many luxury automotive dealerships today, test drives of a specific desired model are often not available. Lincoln guests will be able to make test drive appointments of a specific model and available powertrain online or at any Lincoln dealership. Test drive routes also will be tailored to each guest's personal needs.
Lincoln will deliver The Lincoln Way through an independent network of 60 dealers in 50 cities across China by 2016, starting this autumn with eight dedicated dealerships in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Xi'an, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu. Per feedback from luxury automotive buyers, the dealerships will be located in areas with excellent access and visibility, as well as alongside other luxury auto brands to allow for convenient comparison shopping.
Dealers have been selected based on a combination of criteria, including proven track record of excellence in customer service, business capabilities, and employee retention and development, as well as their motivation to partner with Lincoln to deliver a completely new customer experience.
"We are ahead of our schedule for dealer recruitment, with three more dealers opening this autumn than originally planned," said Parker. "We have a terrific dealer network plan for Lincoln China, timed with our product introduction cadence. However, our No. 1 priority in the next few years is to deliver on our promise of providing personally crafted experiences in every single Lincoln dealership and to firmly establish The Lincoln Way."
Financing also will be an important part of the Lincoln difference. Lincoln Automotive Financial Services, a financing organization dedicated to serving Lincoln customers and dealers in China, will be launched this autumn.
The Lincoln Team
At the core of The Lincoln Way is The Lincoln Team, led by the Host, the Master and the Craftsman, team members specially chosen and rigorously trained by The Lincoln Institute. Together they help deliver a unique Lincoln experience tailored to each customer's individual needs throughout the automotive ownership experience.
The Host tailors the customer's experience and maintains the customer relationship throughout the ownership process. If more detailed information is desired, the Host introduces the customer to the Master.
The Master serves as the customer's trusted resource throughout the sales process, providing information, advice and recommendations based on the customer's needs. The sequence of information and level of detail is tailored to the guest's needs and interests.
The Master further aids the customer's vehicle selection process through the Personalization Studio, which uses an electronic touch-screen table, similar to a tablet but much larger, to build, price and configure the vehicle. The selections are projected at life size so the customer can better understand his or her choice. As selections are made, the guest can see the configuration, options and features in real-time. Private test drives and choice of routes can be arranged as well.
The Master tunes the car to customer preference and guides the customer through vehicle handover.
Working with the Host and Master, the Craftsman serves as the customer's personal contact for service and maintenance. The Craftsman maintains a full record of the vehicle and thoroughly explains any maintenance process. If requested, used parts are returned, packaged in a Lincoln box and tagged with a label, extraction date and the name of a service technician.
"From our first interaction, we will make it a point to know and understand our guests and their needs," Parker said. "Throughout the ownership journey, as our knowledge of a guest grows, we will continuously anticipate and better serve his or her needs."
Five all-new Lincoln products for China
Lincoln will start in China with a new breed of vehicles developed with today's Chinese luxury auto customers in mind. This family of global vehicles has been researched extensively in China to ensure consumers' needs have been prioritized in the vehicle development process.
By 2016, Lincoln will bring five new vehicles to China. The brand will launch this autumn in the largest and fastest-growing segments with Lincoln MKZ, a midsize luxury sedan, and Lincoln MKC, a small luxury utility vehicle. Lincoln MKZ and MKC represent the brand's new direction on both style and substance to appeal to today's young and progressive Chinese luxury auto customers.
The two vehicles will be followed by a midsize luxury SUV, an all-new full-size luxury sedan and a large luxury SUV – Lincoln Navigator. Together, these products will cover more than 80 percent of the luxury auto segment in China.
All Lincoln vehicles sold in China will be imported from North America.
In addition, Lincoln's full vehicle lineup in China will be equipped with award-winning, fuel-efficient EcoBoost® engines, offering customers the impressive performance expected in a luxury automobile while at the same time offering improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.
Lincoln products will feature the brand's world-class technologies. For example, the MKZ and MKC use continuously controlled damping. Drivers can select from sport, comfort and normal drive modes to cater to their driving mood. Continuously controlled damping constantly monitors the road; the suspension reacts on average within 20 milliseconds, providing a smooth ride with enhanced handling.
Lincoln also will offer the Lincoln Presidential Series – the highest expression of the brand, epitomizing Lincoln pillars of quality, design and personal service. The hallmarks of the Lincoln Presidential Series will be exclusive design themes, ultra-premium materials, meticulous craftsmanship and an unmatched level of personalized service.
The Lincoln Space
The brand is celebrating its launch in China at The Lincoln Space. This bespoke environment was specially created for the occasion at The Place, in Beijing's thriving Central Business District.
As Lincoln's brand launch platform, The Lincoln Space provides a taste of the personalized luxury vehicle ownership experience Lincoln will bring to Chinese luxury customers in its dealerships to open this autumn.
The Lincoln Space will be available for the public to experience in Beijing, April 19-26, before it embarks on a tour to Shanghai, Nanjing, Xi'an, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu.