Ford Motor will import its next-generation Lincoln Nautilus from China to the U.S., the company said Monday night.
The midsize crossover is currently produced for the U.S. at Ford’s Oakville Assembly Plant in Ontario, Canada. The automaker recently announced it would be investing 1.8 billion Canadian dollars (about $1.3 billion) to transition the facility into a new electric vehicle hub.
This marks the first time Lincoln will import a vehicle to the U.S. from China.
Importing a vehicle from China to the U.S. is not unprecedented but can draw public and political criticism or backlash, especially when tensions between the two countries are high.
Most notably, General Motors has been criticized for importing its Buick Envision crossover from China to the U.S. since 2016. The Detroit automaker has sold more than 200,000 of the China-made vehicles, which American union officials have called the “Invasion” and “a slap in the face.”
Importing a vehicle from overseas to the U.S. can make good business sense, however, for a company such as Ford.
“In this case, it’s a good use of resources,” said Stephanie Brinley, associate director of research at S&P Global Mobility. “Without importing, Lincoln does not get the product, and the brand needs products between now and when its EVs arrive.”
Brinley said the decision to import the Nautilus does not suggest a fundamental shift for future Lincolns for the U.S. market, noting the company continues to produce most of its vehicles for the U.S. market in North America.
“Lincoln is a global brand that is growing,” a Lincoln spokeswoman said in an email. “As we execute our U.S. manufacturing growth plans, we think it makes sense to centralize Nautilus production in China for both markets (since we already produce Nautilus in China for the local market) which allows us to gain manufacturing efficiencies and retool our Oakville facility to get ready to build our next generation EVs.”
The news comes a week after Ford released a report that said it was the top automaker in terms of vehicles assembled and hourly autoworkers employed in America as well as vehicles exported from America to other countries.
The new Nautilus will feature a redesigned exterior and new interior that includes nearly door-to-door screens for occupants in the front seats. It also offers a new feature called “Lincoln Rejuvenate.”
Ford describes Lincoln Rejuvenate as a “multisensory, in-cabin experience including lighting and digital scenting.” Lincoln revealed a concept vehicle called the Star last year that included such features, but the Nautilus is the first production car for the U.S. to be built with the unique characteristics. The automaker has offered vehicles with the feature in China.
“Lincoln Rejuvenate, a stationary experience, orchestrates specially curated sensory experiences tied to lighting, screen visuals, personal preferences such as seating position and massage options — allowing clients to recharge,” the company said in a release for the vehicle’s reveal Monday night.
Scent cartridges to fill the vehicle’s cabin are housed in the center armrest. The company said scents that come with the package include:
- “Mystic Forest, an earthy blend with woody, rich notes of patchouli.”
- “Ozonic Azure, a crisp blend of aromatic patchouli and traces of bright violet.”
- “Violet Cashmere, exotic white florals and trusted violet that are crisp and refined as fresh linen.”
The vehicle will be powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine as well as a hybrid powertrain. The car is expected to go on sale in early 2024, with starting prices between $51,810 and $75,860.
The redesigned Nautilus and “Lincoln Rejuvenate” come as the once-prominent American luxury brand attempts to rejuvenate itself.
Sales of Lincoln vehicles were down by 4% last year in the U.S. to fewer than 83,500 vehicles. That’s down from a recent peak of more than 112,200 in 2019.