US automaker Ford Motor Co has launched its first vehicles under the luxury Lincoln brand in China as it seeks to make inroads into a car market dominated by German models.
Ford announced in April it would begin Lincoln sales in China in the autumn, adding to its other passenger car and commercial vehicle offerings in the country - the world's largest auto market.
Lincoln has launched a mid-sized sedan, the MKZ in China, priced from 315,800 yuan ($51,770) to 395,800 yuan. It has also started offering the MKC, a small utility vehicle, for 339,800 yuan to 438,800 yuan, the company said, adding both were specifically designed for the Chinese market.
Management consulting firm McKinsey & Co has estimated that German automakers - including Audi AG, BMW AG, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG - account for 80 percent of China's premium market, which it defines as cars costing upwards of 200,000 yuan.
Ford's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Lawler said the start of Lincoln sales marked a "significant" step.
"We now will begin serving luxury customers in China," he said.
The company said it will launch three more Lincoln vehicles in China by 2016: a mid-sized utility vehicle, a full-size sedan and a large SUV.
Ford said it plans to open specialized Lincoln showrooms in Shanghai, Beijing and the eastern city of Hangzhou early next month, to be followed by five more locations by year-end. It aims to have 60 Lincoln stores in 50 Chinese cities by 2016.
Ford sold 813,412 vehicles in China during the first nine months of the year, up 26 percent from the same period last year, according to the company.
Its US rival General Motors Co is also trying to accelerate its luxury sales in China with its Cadillac brand. It launched a Chinese-produced luxury sedan, the XTS, in the country last year and is steadily adding more vehicles to its Cadillac range.