Lincoln Motor Company: What's Going On?




By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel

Yes. What’s up with Lincoln?

On February 4, 1922 Edsel Ford signed the agreement purchasing the Lincoln Motor Company from its founder Henry Leland. The price: $8 million.


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During its early years, Edsel worked with numerous custom-body suppliers to make Lincoln one of the most distinctive luxury brands in the industry, with motorcars that were urbane, sleek and elegant – the epitome of understated luxury. Now, ninety-two year later the iconic Lincoln brand is taking its strong American heritage further into the future.

There had been, up to a few years ago, a Lincoln-Mercury Division at Ford Motor Company. But with Mercury gone, in December 2012 we were reintroduced to “The Lincoln Motor Company,” in a campaign that captures the founding principles of the company and brings them forward to a new generation of progressive luxury buyers.

Last year Lincoln sold slightly less than 82,000 vehicles. That’s quite a drop from the 131,000 Lincoln sold just six years earlier. However, Lincoln is off to a great start in 2014 with January sales up 43% from a year ago, in a month that is typically the weakest in the auto industry and saw actual overall industry sales marginally up.

The January sales represent Lincoln’s best performance for the month in four years. The increase came from Lincoln MKZ, with sales of 2,122 vehicles, up 368 percent, and Lincoln MKX, with 2,479 vehicles sold, a 36 percent year-over-year gain.


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I sat down with Carey White, a Lincoln Marketing Manager, at the recent Chicago Auto Show to discuss where the Lincoln brand is going. Three year ago Ford Motor Company restructured Lincoln and gave it dedicated resources to develop new products for the brand. Lincoln has its own design studio with its own team of designers. So much so, that Ford designers are not allowed to see what Lincoln in doing. Lincoln has a full team developing, marketing and selling unique products for the Lincoln brand.


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With the MKZ premium midsize sedan, Lincoln has targeted new buyers. They are seeing lots of conquest sales and trade-ins from competitive brands. The new MKC small premium crossover SUV gives Lincoln and entry in the fastest growing segment of the market. The Navigator full-size SUV has tremendous brand awareness and leverages the power, beauty and capacity it offers. The just introduced redesign gives the Navigator a fresh face, consistent with other Lincolns, and will help this well-recognized nameplate’s continued success.


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I also spent time with Elaine Bannan, the Navigator Chief Engineer. The role of her team in redesigning the Navigator was to delivery the appearance and jewelry that it deserves to have in a way that reinforced the beauty, power and capacity of this premium large SUV. The Navigator has a best-in-class 9000lb. towing capacity and also best-in-class cargo room. The new twin-Turbo V6 will deliver the performance expected of a large premium SUV while providing significantly reduced fuel consumption.


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I asked if we could expect an all-aluminum Navigator in the next major redesign, considering the newly introduced 2015 all-aluminum Ford F-150 pickup. It was no surprise when comments on future product did not come my way.

However, I recently noticed in an SAE International technology e-newsletter of early February the following: “according to Ford and supplier engineers who spoke unofficially prior to the (F-150) truck’s debut…The F-150 is the initial step in a larger strategy by Ford to convert all of its full-size trucks, including F-250/350 and the large Ford and Lincoln SUVs built in Louisville, to primarily aluminum construction by 2017, the engineers said. The plan brings a high degree of process and tooling commonality to Ford’s three U.S. truck plants, which is expected to yield significant economies of scale to the truck production.”

Lincoln’s product portfolio is, in my opinion, a little SUV-heavy for what I see as primarily a premium car brand. There are two sedans, the MKZ and MKS, the MKT crossover/wagon, and the MKC, MKX and Navigator SUVs.


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Will we see a flagship or image “car” from Lincoln? At the Chicago show I was told that Lincoln still tracks awareness of the Continental name. This flagship model first appeared in 1939 as a two-door and continued to 1948. It reappeared in 1956 as a two-door and then over the generations grew to also be a four-door. At an International Motor Press Association (IMPA) meeting last December, Lincoln’s Product Development Chief Scott Tobin indicated that the Continental name is still very much in the Lincoln brand vernacular. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

We may see future expansion oversees. The Lincoln brand has high awareness in China. The Lincoln MKZ was named this year’s best compact premium vehicle in the J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study reflecting the high marks owners give the vehicle for exterior styling, intuitive technology, seat comfort and storage. And I’m told we can expect more product news from Lincoln in the next twelve months.

Take a look at http://www.lincoln.com for more "From The Horse's Mouth" Lincoln product information. Or do serious premium vehicle comparisons here on the Lincoln Buyers Guide or find 20 years of Lincoln REVIEWS, NEWS, PRICES, SPECS AND VIDEO.

I'm sure that Lincoln will be around for the foreseeable future with exciting new product and customer service. With 970 Lincoln Dealers in the U.S, we expect new offerings in the premium segments to meet the needs of retiring baby-boomers, families who are re-urbanizing, and the younger generation who want premium features in a vehicle.

Indeed there are good things going on at Lincoln.

Larry Nutson

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