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Lincoln Discovers Cultural Automotive Sales Differences Between China And U.S.
Motrolix | May 26, 2015


Earlier this year, Ford launched its Lincoln brand in China. The entry is quite late given that rival luxury car brands such as GM’s Buick and VAG’s Audi have been selling tons of cars in China for years now.

But a late entry has allowed Lincoln to take its time and discover ways to most effectively sell its vehicles in the world’s largest car market. And recently, Lincoln was nice enough to share its learnings regarding the difference between the ways luxury cars are sold in America compared to China; we will summarize them here.

The Lincoln Way

Lincoln created a unique experience for its Chinese customers that it calls The Lincoln Way. The experience focuses on a luxurious dealership facility, a personalized experience, and transparency.

The Dealership

Lincoln dealerships in China feature a living room-like atmosphere, complete with elaborate selections of tea, interactive LED screens, and a lounge that allows customers to watch as their car is being serviced. Those who would rather not wait in the store can access, via a smartphone, tablet, or computer, a live video stream of their vehicle being worked on.

Enabling customers to watch along as their vehicle is being worked on is new to the industry, having arisen as a result of the brand learning that customers in China are surprisingly distrustful of dealer service operations.

“We’re getting input from all our Chinese customers and making sure all their needs are met,” said Lincoln President Kumar Galhotra. “All of those little things have really resonated with the Chinese customers very, very well.”

The tea selection accounts for the luxurious experience category, while being able to watch the vehicle being serviced ticks the transparency box.

Service Alerts

Speaking of service, every Lincoln vehicle sold in China is equipped with a device that notifies the dealership when the vehicle is on the way there.

This enables dealers to better prepare for the customer’s arrival by puling up their information and history, thereby empowering dealers to create a superior, customized experience for owners.

The Cars

But Lincoln’s unique approach to the Chinese market isn’t limited to its dealer experience. The cars are slightly unique, as well.

For instance, the brand removes the new car smell from its vehicles, since new car buyers in China do not like the scent. The preference is a polar opposite from that of American consumers, who admire the new car scent.

In addition, back seat room and comfort are vital to Chinese customers — much more so than it is to American buyers. As such, the automaker has modified its vehicles to add extra padding and contour to the rear seats.

”The experiences are different, expectations are different between U.S. and China”, Lincoln’s Galhotra summarizes. “Going to a Lincoln dealership is an experience; people bring their whole family. That has to be tailored to that culture.”
 

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It always amazes me the differences like this in selling the same products, just to different cultures. The hope is that maybe once Lincoln has a more established product portfolio and they can have more stand alone dealerships maybe they could incorporate some of the things learned in China such as the living room like experience. They need to give people an amazing dealer experience from the point of shopping to service and everything in between. Also need to make sure they have a certain type of salesperson, someone that treats the customer special and creates an experience and not just a sale.
 

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I think this is generally true in Asia, I think Japan learned this lesson early on when they found out that US customers value the new car smell.
 

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Most of the smells we do smell, are man made materials like pastics, adhesives, foams, leather chemicals and coatings, etc.
I don't blame them for not liking it.
Yeah, it's probably not good for some people to be breathing that in. I personally find it agitating. My cars smell like the cologne I wear, which smells like a Sweet Olive tree.
 

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Sounds like a vastly different experience over there. Wonder what'd happen if they introduced some of those in the United States!?


Cort :) www.oldcarsstronghearts.com
1979 & 1989 Caprice Classics | pigValve, paceMaker, cowValve
"Here today, forgot tomorrow" __ Duran Duran __ 'Ordinary World'
 

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Sounds like a vastly different experience over there. Wonder what'd happen if they introduced some of those in the United States!?

Cort :) www.oldcarsstronghearts.com
1979 & 1989 Caprice Classics | pigValve, paceMaker, cowValve
"Here today, forgot tomorrow" __ Duran Duran __ 'Ordinary World'
I remember that the dealerships had a window of time to upgrade, and Lincoln launched a new training program and the US is getting components of the completely new dealership experience launched in China.

It all started back in 2010 with a reduction in dealerships so they can have more sales and healthier profits.

"One of the big problems with Lincoln is that there are just too many dealerships trying to sell a car to in-market customers. To wit, Lincoln currently boasts a whopping 1,221 stores in the States. By way of comparison, Lexus has 230, Audi has 270, BMW has 338 and Mercedes-Benz has 352. Do the math and it's easy to see that each Lincoln dealership doesn't sell very many vehicles – in fact, they're averaging just two sales per week.

According to Automotive News, Ford has a two-part plan to inject some life into its moribund Lincoln outlets. First, the total number of dealerships will be reduced by at least 200, and most of those closures will happen in large metropolitan markets where there are already multiple stores. Second, remaining outlets will be heavily upgraded in order to compete with Lincoln's targeted competitors."
- Autoblog

Reuters offers a bit more detail about the Lincoln dealership transformation: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/07/us-ford-lincoln-idUSTRE7160OF20110207

This article answers the question about Lincoln's plan regarding Europe, and the Asia expansion is already in process.

"Ford is considering expanding Lincoln beyond North America in a few years, but Chief Executive Alan Mulally has said it needs to transform Lincoln into a competitive player in its home market before heading into Europe or Asia."
 

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Cool ... sounds like we'll find out what'll happen, at least for some of the components. Wonder if any other maker will "follow"?

As for the # of stores ... holy crap ... if math serves me correctly, that means Lincoln has more stores than Lexus, Audi, BMW & M-B ... COMBINED. That's kinda mind boggling.


Cort :) www.oldcarsstronghearts.com
1979 & 1989 Caprice Classics | pigValve, paceMaker, cowValve
"Maybe things could work out right" __ Johnny Hates Jazz __ 'Shattered Dreams'
 

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What the **** are they, Commies?
Their citizens are more open minded now I believe, its government isn't.
Right now China claims they own the South China Sea including waters that fall within the boundaries of other countries, the harassing and building of bases (on reclaimed land/enlarged islands) in international waters continues.
 

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“We’re getting input from all our Chinese customers and making sure all their needs are met,” said Lincoln President Kumar Galhotra. “All of those little things have really resonated with the Chinese customers very, very well.”


I wonder what Lincoln would learn from the (small number of) U.S. cross-shoppers who chose not to buy a Lincoln. I doubt it is even possible to pull off a survey in the U.S. to get feedback from non-customers but all of the Chinese customers are new and presumably cross-shoppers. I doubt everyone there buys Lincoln so they are getting the information. Have they even tried it here?
 
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