By Nick Carey
May 15 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co plans to start production of new luxury Lincoln models in China for that market as they are launched, starting with the new Corsair later this year, to benefit from lower costs and avoid the risk of tariffs, a top executive said on Monday.
"It's a huge, huge opportunity for Lincoln because we see China as Ground Zero for Lincoln given the size of the market and how well the brand has been received," Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said at a Goldman Sachs conference in New York.
Ford has lower levels of localized production than rivals General Motors Co or Volkswagen AG, who make more vehicles in China for Chinese consumers, benefiting from lower labor and material costs, and avoiding tariffs in the burgeoning trade war between the United States and China.
Shanks said all new Lincoln models, with the exception of the Navigator assembled in Louisville, Kentucky, will also be produced in China.
He declined to say how much Ford will save through localized production.
Ford has been struggling to revive sales in China, the automaker's second biggest market. Ford sales slumped 37 percent in 2018, after a 6 percent decline in 2017.
Shanks said that all of the problems the automaker experienced in China last year were related to the Ford brand, not Lincoln, which is popular with Chinese customers. (Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by David Gregorio)