In stark contrast to the United States, sedans are still highly desirable in China. It’s become well-known that Chinese prefer a capacious rear seat area without resorting to a limousine. Lincoln’s Zephyr Reflection Concept unveiled in Shanghai this week could be viewed a portent of sorts, a harbinger of what is to come.
“Our global momentum is building, and we continue to lean into the strength of our world-class vehicles and Lincoln Way experiences,” said Joy Falotico, president, Lincoln Motor Company. “Lincoln’s strategy for growth in China is firmly rooted in our deep understanding of the discerning Chinese consumer. Their desire for sedans is the inspiration behind this progressive and distinctive vehicle for China and underscores our commitment to the China market.”
Falotico noted that Continental sales have risen 69 percent for the year there and Lincoln’s Aviator, with its third-row seat, has become popular among multi-generational Chinese families. Reuters speculates that the Chinese automotive market is 60 percent larger than that of the United States. By mid-decade, the chasm is only expected to grow. For Lincoln, this demand puts it at a disadvantage as Lincoln must ship all of its vehicles to China while Cadillac is not similarly constrained.
By next year, Lincoln is rumored to build as many as five vehicles in China, increasing sales and evading any potential import tariffs. Three models are already built in the People’s Republic of China. The Corsair went on sale there in March 2020, followed last July by the all-new Aviator. The Nautilus has been built in China since the first quarter of this year. The MKZ’s replacement, previewed by the Zephyr concept, will go into production by the end of this year or early in 2022. The fifth and final vehicle is supposed to be a coupe-like SUV, the name of which is TBD.
“As long as Lincolns are not manufactured in China, the brand’s sales will no doubt suffer continuously,” Zhu Kongyuan, head of the China Auto Dealers Chamber of Commerce, told Reuters.
While sedan sales remain sour in the U.S. this could mean that some Lincoln SUVs could eventually be shipped across the Pacific to North America, where our collective appetite for SUVs is still insatiable.