Ford unveils resurrected Lincoln Continental, targets China market and aims to increase share of luxury market. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Ford Motor Company unveiled a new luxury flagship full-size Continental sedan on Tuesday (January 12) aimed at Chinese and American consumers. Lincoln said sales of its brand have beaten expectations, with demand for its vehicles leading to 33 dealerships and plans to expand to 60 dealerships by the end of 2016. Kumar Galhotra, President of Lincoln, told Reuters the brand is doing very well in China. "People love American luxury, they love Lincoln and we're off to a fantastic start in the first year in China." Ford's U.S. luxury sales have lagged those of foreign competitors including BMW and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz unit. Until the 1990s, Lincoln along with General Motors Co' Cadillac were by far the U.S. luxury sales leaders. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker considered shuttering Lincoln in 2010, when it announced it would kill its Mercury brand, but is rebounding. In 2014, Ford said it hoped to triple Lincoln's global sales by 2020 to 300,000 vehicles globally, from 100,000 in 2013. Lincoln's U.S. sales rose 7.1 percent last year to 101,227, the first time since 2008 they topped 100,000. Still, that's about half the luxury automaker's record U.S. sales of more than 200,000 in 1990. Ford sold about 11,000 Lincoln vehicles in China last year, which was its first full year on sale in China. To attract more Chinese buyers, many who have drivers, Lincoln is offering Continental versions with enhanced back seat comfort and features including greater connectivity. The new Continental will be built in Flat Rock, Michigan, and goes on sale in the fall in both China and the United States. BMW is the reigning leader in the global luxury car manufacturing but rival luxury brand manufacturers are finding ways to narrow the margins. American, Asian and rival German auto makers showed off their latest luxury vehicles on Tuesday at the North American International Auto show in Detroit, with hopes of wooing consumers away from BMW, which has now clinched the leading luxury auto brand for 11-years in a row. Sales of BMW's core brand reached 1.91 million in 2015 on strong demand for sports utility vehicles. BMW faces increased competition from German premium rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz to keep expanding the number of vehicle variants in its portfolio. Ian Robertson, a member of the board of management of BMW AG, said the three top luxury brands were in Germany and told Reuters they don't take competition lightly. "All competition is something we are wary of, but I can also tell you we we like to shape our own future rather than unnecessarily keep looking over or shoulder," he said. Mercedes sales rose 13.4 percent to 1.87 million cars last year, compared with a 3.6 percent jump to 1.80 luxury vehicles sold by Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen. Both Volkswagen and Audi have been embroiled in a scandal over manipulated engines in recent months. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, has meanwhile benefited from surging demand for its new C-Class mid-sized limousine, which saw sales jump 40.1 percent to 443,909 cars last year. The launch of a new E-Class is expected to add further sales momentum this year, Daimler has said. In 2014, BMW sold 1.81 million BMW-branded cars, while rival Audi took second place, delivering 1.74 million vehicles. Mercedes-Benz lagged behind with 1.65 million luxury cars sold in 2014.