What does Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick have in common with well-heeled consumers in China?
The answer: A taste for the Lincoln Navigator.
Mayor Kilpatrick made front-page headlines when it was learned the financially-strapped city had leased a red Navigator to transport his wife and three kids around town.
The ensuing political discussion prompted by investigative reporting wasn't about the Kilpatrick family's taste in vehicles, which is upscale and hometown. It was about the way in which the Navigator was leased using funds from the Detroit Police Department. That led to the usual finger-pointing, denials and ultimately an admission.
Heck, the flap was even mentioned in The Wall Street Journal.
Now there is word from China that the Lincoln Navigator, which was launched there in May, has become the ultimate status symbol.
Ford's marketing director in China says the Navigator is sold at 23 dealerships in 19 cities and carries a hefty sticker price that's the equivalent of nearly $90,000, compared with the $57,000 sticker on the mayor's vehicle.
Ford won't say how many Navigators it ships to China from the Wayne, Mich., assembly plant, or even if the favorite color is red. (Having seen the limos and luxury cars in China, I'd put my money on black, not red.)
So as the anti-SUV crowd gleefully rubs its hands, hoping that rising gasoline prices in the United States will stunt sales of big SUVs, there are still plenty of eager buyers for what is considered a pure example of all-American luxury.
Is this a great industry, or what?
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at