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Image: Ford Motor Co.

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While both Buick and Cadillac have a healthy lead over Lincoln in terms of domestic deliveries, the gap between them is much more pronounced in China. At home, Ford has sold 111,159 copies of its premium brand in 2017 against Cadillac's 156,440. China's caddy sales were 175,489 last year – a figure Lincoln was only able to capture in his wildest fantasies.

That's because Ford exports all of its luxury vehicles to China while GM builds them locally. But the Lincoln brand shows a lot of promises in Asia. Ford moved around 80,000 vehicles in the People's Republic in 2017 and 54,124 of these models wore the Lincoln Cross. Theoretically, if Ford could locate and strengthen its product range within the country, a higher volume could be guaranteed. It is a theory that the automaker also wants to test.

According to Reuters the Lincoln brand intends to build five new vehicles in China by 2022. Officially, Ford has just said that there will be a Chinese crossover by the end of 2019, but sources say Lincoln will also build the Aviator in China by early 2020, along with the successors of the MKC compact crossover and the MKZ Midsize -Limousine. After these models in 2021 the Nautilus replaces the MKX.

Another small Lincoln crossover could go into Chinese production in 2022.

"Our localization plans to help the Chinese market are on track will further drive Lincoln's growth in China," said Lincoln spokeswoman Angie Kozleski. "In addition, it would be premature to discuss our future product and production plans or timing."

Since China still has a 25 percent import duty on cars, Ford can not compete with GM in this market, literally, America. Even if the country lowers the fees that President Xi Jinping promised, there is no guarantee that it will be enough to level the playing field. Ford therefore intends to build more cars in China than to insist on strengthening US production and exporting a raft of new models.

However, the Chinese manufacturers claim that the first vehicles with Lincoln names at least will not go into production another 18 to 24 months. Ford is already catching up, as the Lincoln brand only came onto the Chinese market in 2015. Cadillac has been there since 2004 and has allowed itself to build a stronger dealer network and build factories in the country. China is now the largest brand by volume in terms of volume.

Lincoln wants a taste of the action and better access to the country's 1.37 billion potential customers, but the only way to do so under existing trade laws is to shop there.

What does that mean for America? Well, there is a possibility that Ford may shift the production of certain models to the People's Republic only, resulting in "American-made" Chinese exports – such as the Buick Envision or the Cadillac CT6. The drivetrains are likely to be heavily influenced by the country's strict electrified vehicle mandate. A significant portion of these new Lincoln vehicles has hybrid variants.

Really, Lincoln had no choice. China has overtaken the United States as the world's largest new car market, and companies are not in the business of not hunting for money. "As long as Lincoln is not manufactured in China, the brand's sales will undoubtedly continue to suffer," said Zhu Kongyuan, Secretary-General of the China Car Dealers Chamber.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]



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