As Lincoln arrives, execs stress service [China Daily: Hong Kong Edition]
(China Daily: Hong Kong Edition Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Century-old US auto brand Lincoln has opened a new chapter by bringing a new approach to luxury auto sales in China.
Marking its official launch on April 17 in Beijing, Lincoln showcased two models - the midsize sedan MKZ and the small SUV MKC - as well as the hospitality approach to ownership it will provide when its first eight dealerships open later this year.
"As a new brand entering the market, Lincoln has the perfect opportunity to differentiate ourselves by creating a new way of purchasing and owning a luxury vehicle that meets the personal needs of today's new customers," said Jim Farley, executive vice-president of Ford global marketing, sales and service and Lincoln.
Called the Lincoln Way, it is intended to create lasting relationships through personal experience rather than the common sales pitch found in the Chinese premium auto market, said Farley.
Key elements of Lincoln's approach include a distinct, welcoming, home-like environment, intuitive personalized technology and complete sales and service transparency, he said.
"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 meet their needs.
"At Lincoln dealerships, each customer has a dedicated team to ensure personalized service tailored to the customer's individual needs is consistently delivered throughout the ownership experience," said Farley.
He said a personalized experience begins with the car owner's arrival - every dealership will have license plate recognition technology so the staff instantly recognizes when an owner arrives.
Though maintenance difficulties can aggravate mistrust of dealerships in the Chinese auto industry, Lincoln customers will be able to watch their vehicles serviced in real time through cameras. They will be shown and given the parts removed from their vehicles.
Lincoln dealerships will provide loaner vehicles if repairs take more than two hours, he added.
Farley said the new model is the result of a three-year study of new luxury auto customers in China that included extensive quantitative and qualitative analysis of luxury market segmentation as well as behavior models and expectations.
The automaker 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.
"Our extensive study revealed that many customers are underserved in the Chinese luxury auto market," said Farley,
He explained that the maturing market no longer buys luxury as an overt statement of wealth. "Instead, they are increasingly seeking it as a way to express their unique individuality."
He said customers don't want automakers to treat them as ciphers, but as individuals, so are now choosing brands that can meet their personal needs and reflect who they are.
That's why he is confident Lincoln will succeed. "The Lincoln Way captures how Lincoln sells and services its vehicles and how Lincoln customers experience the brand," said Farley.
"Our Lincoln customers in China will not only get the very best when it comes to products, but also when it comes to the experience they get from their dealers."
Matt VanDyke, director of Global Lincoln, called the Lincoln Way the biggest selling point for the brand, saying the top priority over the next few years in China is to firmly establish the model through an independent network of 60 dealers in 50 cities by 2016.
"Our focus is not volume," said VanDyke.
The MKZ and the MKC will be available on the market in the second half of the year, according to the automaker.
The two models represent new directions in both style and substance to appeal to today's young and progressive Chinese luxury auto customers, said the automaker.
They will be followed by a midsize luxury SUV, an all-new full-size luxury sedan and a large luxury SUV - the Lincoln Navigator - by 2016, it added.
Even though they are all imported from North America, Farley said the family of global vehicles has been researched extensively in China to ensure local consumer needs have been prioritized in the vehicle development process.
In addition, he added the models will feature the brand's state-of-art technologies including fuel-efficient EcoBoost engines offering customers the impressive performance expected in a luxury automobile while at the same improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions.
"Lincoln's success in China is key to our efforts to build Lincoln into a global luxury automotive brand," said Farley.
"The needs of today's luxury auto customer in China have been fundamental to Lincoln's brand rejuvenation globally."
(China Daily 04/19/2014 page20)
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