Ford Motor Co. plans to launch its Lincoln luxury brand in China in the second half of 2014 as the automaker plays catch up in the world's biggest auto market.
CEO Alan Mulally announced the move today during a swing through China to break ground on the company's third assembly plant in the city of Chongqing.
The brand will be sold through an independent dealer network, and the company will begin meeting aspiring dealers in the fourth quarter of this year, Ford said in a release.
"Introducing Lincoln in China marks the next step in our expansion in Asia and our commitment to serving customers in the luxury market," Mr. Mulally said.
The launch of Lincoln in China comes even as Ford struggles to rebuild the brand in its home market of the United States. Global marketing and sales boss Jim Farley said Lincoln will stand out in China by offering more individualized and personalized products.
Ford is a late bloomer in China, but is moving fast to catch up. It will deliver 15 new Ford-branded vehicles and 20 powertrains by 2015 to Chinese customers. And it is building five plants to double production capacity in China to 1.2 million units a year.
Tapping China's rapidly expanding luxury market is a key element of Mr. Mulally's bid to boost Ford's global sales by 50% from 2010 to 8 million by mid-decade.
The luxury segment there is forecast to surpass the luxury segment in the United States by 2020, Ford said, citing an outlook of IHS. Luxury vehicle sales are expected to more than double from 6% of the market today to nearly 9% by the end of the decade.
Annual sales of luxury cars are forecast to be 2.7 million units by then.
The Lincolns to be sold in China initially will be manufactured in North America, The Associated Press reported. Local production will be considered later, depending on sales.
--Automotive News China--