Ford to build new Lincoln SUV in China by 2019

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co.’s luxury brand, Lincoln, plans to produce an all-new SUV in China by the end of 2019.

The Dearborn-based automaker will partner in a joint venture with Chinese manufacturer Changan Automobile Group, according to Lincoln spokesman Said Deep. China requires foreign automakers to partner with a Chinese company in a joint venture to manufacture cars on Chinese soil.

The move will help Lincoln reach growing demand in China. The company wouldn’t go into detail about the SUV, and only said it will be a brand-new vehicle. Ford said it would be sold exclusively in China.

“The Lincoln product and ownership in China is resonating with Chinese customers even beyond our expectations,” Kumar Galhotra, president of Lincoln, said in a statement. “We are now taking Lincoln to the next level by building a new SUV in China to join a dynamic lineup of imported cars and SUVs.”

Deep said Monday that Lincoln will continue to export from North America for Chinese customers.

Lincoln began exporting the all-new Continental to China in late 2016, but has been exporting to the country for a few years. In February, Ford started shipping its 2017 F-150 Raptor to China, marking the first time the automaker exported a U.S.-built F-Series truck to the country.

The all-new luxury SUV will meet growing Chinese demand for larger vehicles. This mirrors a similar trend in the U.S., where passenger cars accounted for 37.7 percent industry sales last month, down from 42.4 percent a year ago. Truck sales accounted for 62.3 percent of industry sales in February, compared to 57.6 percent a year ago.

Ford had a record February for SUV sales, moving 68,820 vehicles off dealership lots last month. In that same time, the company saw passenger car sales fall 24 percent.

But Lincoln in February saw a 8.8 percent increase in sales compared to the same month a year ago. The MKC and MKX SUVs both saw increases in sales in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Ford and its joint ventures in 2016 sold a record 1.27 million vehicles in China, though the company’s imported vehicle volume for 2016 was down overall from 2015.

Overall sales in the country were up 2 percent over February 2016.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau