Shanghai (AFP) - US automaker Ford has launched its first vehicles under the luxury Lincoln brand in China, the company said, as it seeks to make inroads into a market dominated by German cars.
Ford announced in April that 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 on Thursday launched a mid-sized sedan, the MKZ, priced from 315,800 yuan to 395,800 yuan ($51,770 to $64,885), according to a news release.
It also started offering the MKC, a small utility vehicle, for 339,800 yuan to 438,800 yuan, the release said.
Both were designed for the Chinese market, it added.
Management consulting firm McKinsey has estimated that German automakers -- including Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen -- account for 80 percent of the "premium" market in China, which it defines as cars costing upwards of 200,000 yuan.
Chairman and chief executive officer of Ford China, John Lawler, said the start of Lincoln sales marked a "significant" step.
"We now will begin serving luxury customers in China," he said in the release.
Lincoln will launch three more vehicles in China by 2016: a mid-sized utility vehicle, a full-size sedan and a large SUV, according to the statement.
Ford plans to open specialised Lincoln stores in Shanghai, Beijing and the eastern city of Hangzhou early next month, to be followed by five more locations by year-end, it said.
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 (GM) is also trying to beef up luxury sales in China with its Cadillac brand.
GM launched a Chinese-produced luxury sedan, the XTS, in the country last year and is steadily adding more vehicles to its Cadillac range.