American automakers have learned an important lesson when it comes to introducing products to the Chinese market: what is acceptable – even preferable – domestically is not always so warmly accepted abroad.
This lesson applies quite heavily to the new Lincoln Continental, the production version of which was just shown earlier in the year at the Detroit Auto Show, as most units of the luxury sedan will likely be headed to China, according to Automotive News.
Consequently, Lincoln Motor Company is taking a number of steps to ensure that the new Continental is poised to succeed in the Asian market, from aspects of its basic design like its long wheelbase, to features like a “chauffeur button” which moves the unoccupied front passenger seat forward at the press of a button, and beyond. “[Chinese customers] have high demands in terms of craftsmanship and fit and finish,” says Lincoln’s Deputy General Manager of Marketing for China, Pei-Wen Hsu. “By learning from the Chinese consumers, we’ve been able to refine our offering.”
For example: Automotive News reports that the leather used on the Lincoln’s seats in China will be wrapped more tightly than on the US-market sedan as what Americans perceive as “plushness,” Chinese customers view as “sloppy.” Another example: that “new car smell” that American buyers can’t seem to get enough of? Chinese customers find it repugnant. So, large carbon sheets will be placed within the Lincoln Continental‘s cabin during its long boat ride to China in order to absorb much of the smell.
Small touches such as these can make or break a product’s success in China, which is generally viewed as a very discerning market with different concerns than many in the West. “The Chinese consumer is very discriminating and is not going to tolerate second best,” says Dunne Automotive President Michael Dunne. Dunne Automotive is an investment advisory group which specializes in Asian automotive markets.
“Before, it would be, ‘Do we really need to make this adjustment? We sell a lot of this car in the United States, and if it’s good enough for the U.S., it’s good enough here.'”