For the first time, Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln luxury brand sold more vehicles in China than in the U.S., a milestone for a latecomer to the world's largest vehicle market who has made the country a key pillar of growth.
The automaker late Thursday said Lincoln sold more than 91,000 vehicles in China in 2021, a 48 percent increase over 2020. Lincoln's U.S. sales fell 18 percent last year to 86,929, its lowest annual mark since 2013.
Lincoln opened its first China dealerships in 2014, well behind much of its luxury competition. But the brand made a point to study Chinese customers and offer them a unique car-buying experience, called the Lincoln Way.
Lincoln hired Eight Inc., the firm that designed the original Apple stores, to craft warm, welcoming dealerships including tea rooms, waterfall displays and a heritage wall that showcased the brand's history. Designers insisted on a small number of vehicles in the showroom, and placed those models on pedestals with special lighting.
Dealers were told to pamper customers and focus on the experience before they focused on the sale.
Key elements of that experience have been replicated in its U.S. showrooms.
Today, Lincoln sells more nameplates in China than the U.S.; it continues to sell the Continental sedan there after discontinuing it in the U.S., and is preparing to launch the Zephyr sedan this year in China.
Lincoln is working to localize production of most of its lineup instead of importing from the U.S.
Despite the growth, the brand has fallen short of global sales goals.