By on February 17, 2010

With news that Mercury will receive new product based on the forthcoming Ford Focus, the bandwagon to crown Ford as the new King of Detroit has halted briefly as its passengers take a moment to remember: oh yeah, Ford is technically still trying to compete in the luxury game. Ford’s recent luxury-brand efforts have been so half-hearted in comparison with its Ford-brand turnaround that many analysts simply overlook Lincoln and Mercury when proclaiming Dearborn’s momentum. As, apparently, have consumers. Neither Lincoln nor Mercury cracked 100k sales units in 2009, a feat achieved even by such marginal luxury brands as Buick, Cadillac, and Acura. And as the Detroit News details, the problems with Lincoln-Mercury run deep, and their solutions are far from obvious.

The DetN’s Bryce G Hoffman tears the lid off of Ford’s five-year old plan to return Lincoln to some kind of marketplace relevance, a plan that would have seen Lincoln replacing Mercury all together as the sole purveyor of Ford luxury. As Hoffman describes it,

It has been nearly five years since former Ford design chief Peter Horbury, fresh from an extreme makeover of Ford’s Volvo brand, stood before Bill Ford Jr. and asked to do the same with Lincoln.

A screen behind Horbury displayed the next generation of every Lincoln product — an unimpressive lineup of cars and trucks that bore an obvious resemblance to the Ford products on which they were based. A different grille and few different bends in the sheet metal was all that differentiated them.

What vehicles were they bemoaning as poorly-differentiated rebadges? The Fusion-based Zephyr, for one.

Pretty rebadge-tastic, no? One could easily understand why Bill Ford would be motivated to create a more distinctive identity for his family’s once-fabled luxury brand.

Then a stunning array of modern luxury vehicles flashed on the screen, inspired by iconic cars like the 1941 Continental Cabriolet and the 1966 Continental. This, Horbury said, could be the future of Lincoln — if Ford would pay for it.

And pay for it they did. Based on the results, like the Lincoln MKZ which replaced the Zephyr, let’s hope they didn’t pay much.

Five years after allegedly acknowledging Lincoln’s distressing lack of luxury prestige, Lincoln models look no less like their donor Fords than when Horbury first tackled the issue (with the possible exception of the MKT, which will win no more fans with its styling than its equally weird cousin, the Flex). Sure, the donor Fords have improved in the last five years, but so has the competition and consumer expectations. In effect, Lincoln has spent the last five years barely treading water.

Not that Ford’s executives appear to be sweating it. “Lincoln is the volume piece of the business going forward,” Ford’s Mark “MKF” Fields tells the DetN. “We now have a cohesive Lincoln lineup that shares a common DNA.” Dealers disagree heartily, pointing out that Ford’s push upmarket with products like the Taurus SHO means Lincoln is, if anything, less differentiated than ever. “It’s hard to sell a $48,000 MKS when the Ford guy down the street has a Taurus with the same features for $10,000 less,” says one dealer. It’s hard to tell what’s more troubling: that Lincoln replaced rebadges with rebadges, or that Ford’s executives can’t tell that they still have their heel on the brand’s throat.

Another dealer puts his finger even closer to the problem: “I have more dedicated Lincoln-Mercury employees than Ford Motor Co. does,” the owner of several Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealerships in suburban Boston tells the DetN. “They don’t have any executives who wake up every day thinking about these brands.” With Horbury gone to Volvo, Lincoln and Mercury are managed by Ford-brand executives, rather than enjoying dedicated design and development teams. With nobody taking ownership of these two “luxury” brands, is it any wonder that they’ve sojourned so long in the land of the cheap tart-up?

The fact that Lincoln’s base pricing is often higher than (say) Audi’s is another common complaint that even those who profess to appreciate Lincoln’s styling, like the DetN’s Scott Burgess, have a hard time seeing past. Sure, the Lincoln offers more base equipment, but the luxury market is an emotion, fashion, and status-driven business. Aspiration, not comparisons of base equipment, sell luxury cars. And who aspires to a Lincoln?

Meanwhile, and despite nearly being relegated to the dustheap of brand history, Mercury outsold Lincoln last year by 10k vehicles. Not that it’s anything to brag about: according to Ford, Lincoln’s retail (non-fleet) sales actually surpassed Mercury’s. That should tell you everything you need to know about the sad state of Ford’s luxury game.

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59 Comments on “Lord Love A Lincoln...”


  • avatar
    BDB

    Ford needs to focus on its core brand for a few more years, THEN do something with big with Lincoln.

    They don’t need to repeat the same mistake GM did–focusing on niche cars (Saturn) and luxury brands(Cadillac) while letting Chevrolet go down the toilet. Or, to take an example from Ford itself, the whole PAG debacle starting in the ’90s.

    Lincoln can wait–Ford will live or die on the Ford brand.

    And the problem isn’t even that the Lincolns are bad cars–they aren’t, sure the MKZ is a tarted up Fusion, but the ES is just a tarted up Camry! They’re competent cars–It’s just that the brand has zero prestige, and with luxury brands these days the badge is a big part of the purchase. To break out of that cycle and build up prestige Lincoln needs to be more than competent, they need to do something really out of the box and move way upmarket.

    • 0 avatar
      hapless

      1. The Lexus ES is a tarted up Toyota *Avalon* — an EPA “full size” that is only slightly less expensive than its Lexus twin. Lincoln’s rebadges are tens of thousands of dollars more than their Ford equivalents.

      2. Lexus has two or three dedicated platforms for every badgineered model: SC, GS, IS, LS, RX are all Lexus-specific. Lincoln has *no* dedicated platforms. Even the Town Car shares most of its parts with a taxicab.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      Sorry, but you’re incorrect. The ES is a Camry, not an Avalon.

      They both have a 109.1 inch wheel base, they’re both 189.2 inches long, they have the same width, weight etc.

      The Avalon is bigger than both.

      Also the RX has the same underpinnings as the Venza and Highlander, it’s hardly Lexus exclusive.

      What do you want to bet that the badge engineered models account for most of Lexus’s sales? The ES and RX alone have to big a big chunk.

      You’re right that you must have unique platforms for the upper-level offerings, but don’t pretend like Lexus, Acura, and Audi among others don’t badge engineer their entry level cars–which account for most of their sales.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The SC is dedicated, at least in the US, as is the LS. But the RX is a Highlander. The LX is a Land Crusier. The GX is a 4 Runner. The ES is a Camry/Avalon. The IS and GS platforms are also shared, but are Lexus only.

      I just wanted to help with the math. Lincoln does have serious issues, but only pointing out, that “badgineering” done right isn’t a bad thing.

    • 0 avatar
      dkulmacz

      +1 BDB

      Considering the state of the economy in general, the auto market, and company’s balance sheet, the progress that Ford has made with Lincoln is great. The ‘badge engineering’ of old is gone. Designs for the MKZ and MKX were both frozen before the company’s shake-up and turnaround. Those that came after — the MKS and MKT — are no longer just grills and tail lights. They’re as well differentiated as any other luxury vehicle built on a shared platform. I’m confident this will continue into the future. You may not like the Lincoln styling DNA, but I don’t think you can argue it’s very similar to Ford’s.

      Regarding pricing . . . trading profit for volume by lowering price is a dangerous game. Better to sell fewer at a profit than more at a loss. And anecdotally, I know several people who compared the SHO and MKS, and chose the Lincoln (one with EcoBoost), premium and all. I’m sure the Lincoln business case is working. Bigger differentiation will come as Ford gets stronger.

    • 0 avatar
      AccAzda

      To hapless AND BDB:

      The Camry frame underpins: Camry, Avalon, ES, RX, Highlander, Venza and SIENNA. I also believe it might underpin the RAV4.

      It was only recent that Ford debuted the new front clip for the MKX, conveniently right before the Edge gets debuted.

      The light inserts in the front clip are the same, only thing different is the grill itself. Mind you, its fantastic that they GOT THIS FAR, but they need to take 3-5 steps forward.

      Yes, its fantastic that they took the FLEX and turned it into the MKT. But it sucks that they took a top-of-the-line F150 and put a Linc badge and sold that.

      It also sucks that the Fusion and Expedition are VERY SLIGHT rebadges.

      So on one hand ya got the FLEX that’s the MKT…
      On the other ya got design failures like the Nav and the Fusion for Linc.

      AT best Linc is very very confused.

      The naming procedure that Linc put together is convoluted AND confusing for many of the B and B in here. (I’m getting REALLY tired of having to explain such a simple concept.) But like those who buy the damn things, they dont have a CLUE either!

      To state it simply
      They need another 10yrs of just flat out Flex = MKT redesigns, and a WHOLE LOT LESS of Fusion / Expedition / Edge grade crap.

      Best part…
      The Taurus SHO is a fat, pointless and overweight shell if its former self (yes, so is everyone else in the former mid-size category, besides the point) and I fail or would FAIL epically to try and compare the copy from Linc. Id HOPE its more of a D R I V E R for THOSE WHO LIKE TO D R I V E than a slouch from Linc.

  • avatar
    Facebook User

    Ford’s doing it right — putting what limited resources were available into its bread-and-butter products. So what if the MKZ and MKS aren’t selling hand-over-fist, as long as tens of thousands of Fusions and Tauruses find happy buyers.

    Like most other consumers, I don’t particularly care how nice the Caddy CTS is; I’m much more concerned with how competitive — and lack of same — the Malibu and (gag) Impala are. GM blew it big time here.

    I also have the feeling Ford is playing something of a waiting game… how long will it take for Gov’t Motors to implode, and Cadillac to simply disappear?

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Ford should have filed BK with the other two and gotten rid of it’s LM division. Ford is far from being out of the woods and needs to concentrate resources on the Ford brand.

    “It’s hard to sell a $48,000 MKS when the Ford guy down the street has a Taurus with the same features for $10,000 less,”

    This is the part Detroit doesn’t get. In order to have differentiation, you have to say no. When Ford wants a luxurious Taurus, someone has to say no.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      A bankruptcy filing would have threatened the Ford family’s controlling stake in the company. It will never happen, unless the company really is at the end of the road.

    • 0 avatar
      dkulmacz

      If the total money that Ford makes by selling Taurus, plus “luxurious Taurus”, plus MKS is greater than the total money made by selling Taurus plus MKS alone, then someone has to say “yes”. When you have proof that your proposed feature and content model is more profitable than Ford’s, please share it.

      Remember, we’re discussing business, not religion. “Branding” is a tool, not an end unto itself. Maybe, just maybe, some cursed MBA actually earned his keep by figuring that given the constraints on development funding, a few lost Lincoln sales would be more than offset by a lot more luxurious Taurus sales.

  • avatar
    crash sled

    Not that Ford’s executives appear to be sweating it. “Lincoln is the volume piece of the business going forward,” Ford’s Mark “MKF” Fields tells the DetN. “We now have a cohesive Lincoln lineup that shares a common DNA.” Dealers disagree heartily…”

    Man, Fields needs to update his marketing-speak some. “DNA”?! That is sooooo 90′s. How about recycling “Outfitters”, Fields? I woulda thought Mullaly woulda long ago put the boots to this little snipe.

    I can’t see how they can afford right now to upgrade the Ford line, while also reskinning Lincolns/Mercs. So this holding action is somewhat predictable.

    Longer term, the question is, when they do finally reskin, while reskinning directly upon Ford platforms as they’ve long planned it seems to me, how does this support their drive for Lincoln to be a brand of choice? Can they sweeten up those platforms enough to support a premium price? There’s an inherent contradiction in their strategy, seems to me.

    Lincoln/Mercury are in a transitional phase, clearly, but transitioning to what?

    • 0 avatar

      My first impression of Mark Fields was that he was an empty suit with a nice haircut. The more I’ve watched him and based on the couple of times I’ve spoken to him I’ve changed my opinion and I’ve come to agree with other people that the guy knows the car biz. Mullaly is no fool and if Fields was incompetent he’d be gone. Fields did pretty well at Mazda.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    LM is of course a sad sorry state of affairs. I am convinced that Ford is completely clueless when it comes to running a luxury brand. Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, Lincoln and Mercury are/were all failures under Ford stewardship. Ford does need to concentrate on the Ford brand but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have some reasonable semblance of a LM brand. Lincoln is in about the same position as Acura, it has little brand equity and buyers of vehicles in their segment aren’t familiar with the offerings. Mercury has been all but hung out to dry. I can’t imagine it’s that difficult to revamp the LM product line up but obviously Ford has to want to make that happen before it has any chance of succeeding. I really don’t know how LM dealers remain viable.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      I can’t imagine it’s that difficult to revamp the LM product line up but obviously Ford has to want to make that happen before it has any chance of succeeding. I really don’t know how LM dealers remain viable.

      Well, look at how they transformed the Ford lineup in the past six years. Look at Ford’s car lineup in 2004: the Focus, the Mustang, the rental-spec Taurus, the retro T-Bird and the Crown Victoria. Aside from the Mustang and maybe the Focus it was laughably weak.

      Now, after the new Focus launches, they won’t have a single weak spot in their car lineup. I hope Mulally can work that kind of magic on LM by 2016.

    • 0 avatar

      While Ford lost money on the PAG, I don’t think anyone can disagree that Jaguar and Aston-Martin are in much better shape now than when Ford bought them. Before the financial meltdown, A-M was having record years. Both marques have completely revamped their lineups and have modern aluminum bodies and new engines.

      I think Tata bought Jaguar at the right point, just after Ford dumped a ton of money into developing the new XK, the XF and early work on the XJ, along with the new Jaguar V8.

      As far as Aston-Martin is concerned, the company might have disappeared had Ford not bought it, and world would never had seen the masterpieces that Ian Callum penned while at A-M.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @ronnieschreiber – you’re kidding, right? I mean, did I miss the (sarcasm) tag somewhere in your post?

      I have to disagree vehemently. Ford did such a wonderful job with the PAG? To what end? To have almost killed Ford in it’s entirety? Who cares if Aston Martin was in great shape when it was sold – THE premium Ford; LINCOLN is no better than Mercury’s have been for the last 30 years. AM drained valuable resources from Ford, along with Range Rover and Jaguar.

      You’re right about one thing, Tata bought very well. In the meantime, it’s a long slog back to relevancy for FoMoCo, and until they can get the bread and butter Fords back up to snuff, the baleen whale faced Lincolns are pitiful ghosts. Don’t start me on Mercury, another casualty of the PAG.

      I wish someone in Dearborn would grow a brain and put the brand out of commission; it’s almost as bad as Saturn was, nice cars with no visible recognition. The ‘modern aluminum bodies and new engines’ for AM and Jaguar should have been applied to Lincoln and Mercury, but I guess somebody had to justify their expensive paychecks.

      Ford needs tough love, right now. They’re doing a pretty good job with Ford as it is now, but it remains to be seen how the public will react to the new Fiesta and Focus. Mercury is going the way of Pontiac, but no one has the balls to admit it.

      Lincoln, is just pointless the way it is now. You know the makers of the MKZ, MKT & MKS’s. The names sound like AIDS vaccines. Is everything a Mark something or another? People complained about Pontiac going to the Gx (G5, G6, G8) system of naming the vehicles, but at least you knew they were cars, as opposed to crossovers or pickup trucks.

      Obvious rebadges of everyday Fords. That used to be the big knock against Mercury, but it seems that since Mercury is invisible, it has become Lincoln’s fate now. At least GM is trying with Cadillac; while they share platforms and bodies with Chevy, when you see a Cadillac, you can’t easily see the Chevy bones underneath. It’s way too obvious with Lincoln.

      (sarcasm) But at least some Indian guy got a great deal on an English automaker, right? (end sarcasm)

  • avatar
    geeber

    This opinion may go against the grain, but I like the new Lincoln “face.” The grille and headlight ensemble really works on the MKS and MKX, and looks FAR better than the Art & Science look of the Cadillacs or super-sized Camry look of the Lexuses. In real life, these vehicles are attractive. Your opinion, of course, may vary.

    Having sat in both the Lincoln MKS and the Ford Taurus at the Washington, D.C., and Harrisburg auto shows, they are two very distinct cars from the inside. The MKS and the Taurus “feel” and look completley different when behind the wheel.

    The MKT, though, needs to go ASAP. And the MKZ is what the Milan should be. There shouldn’t be a Lincoln smaller than the MKS.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Mercury–oh wait, you mean those genicars behind that attractive brunette I see on TV every now and again? Do they still make Mercurys?

    Seriously, I can’t even remember the last time I saw a Mercury–oh wait, yes, it was a (badge-engineered Crown Vic) Marauder, with the blacked-out trim. You could sit and watch cars on the freeway in the Seattle area for a very long time and not see a Mercury go by.

    Yes, at the very least, Mercury should have been killed off 15 years ago, Lincoln probably as well but then Ford doesn’t have anything to “compete” in the upper end. Discerning drivers in my area buy a Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, BMW, or Audi.

  • avatar
    meefer

    LM is dead as is, but Ford is putting the money behind the name, where it should for now.

    I still think they need to keep the Mercury ads with Jill Wagner and go super-Euro – hatchbacks/wagons, hybrids, diesels, stop start. Lincoln, I have no idea. They’re doing what everyone else is doing, but they can’t shake perception. A proper halo car perhaps (MKR with supercharged coyote)? Safety?

    Basically, stuff that might be kinda niche but may be able to trickle down to other platforms. I mean it’s not like improving sales is a priority – going from 100K to 200K would require more resources than selling another 100K F-series I suspect.

  • avatar

    Ford is doing right, investing in FORD and growing FORD. Everything else is trivial and Lincoln is the definition of trivial.

    GM has demonstrated how not to do it the past decade. They dedicated all their resources and attention to everything BUT Chevrolet and paid dearly for it. Chevrolet is the majority of GM’s sales and really is GM yet they let it flatline. The brands they invested billions in have all failed. All the new shiny things that were radically different failed. Now GM is bankrupt and it seems they understand now all that effort has to go into Chevrolet if GM is to go anywhere.

    Cadillac is a good example, GM has spent nearly ten years and a mountain of money to remake Cadillac. It has radical styling and vastly improved products but it still isn’t enough to right the sales slide or grow the brand. That’s how hard this game is.

    Ford is under a mountain of debt, still close to insolvency, and isn’t rapidly growing it’s cashpile or marketshare. What exactly do dealers expect?

    A massive investment in Lincoln would be silly when the company is on the ropes. Lincoln doesn’t carry Ford, FORD carries Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      +100, right on.

      Ex., they put a lot of resources into the LaCrosse when what’s really needed (especially with the new Taurus) is an Impala replacement. The Impala is hurting the Malibu–not only because their prices end up so close with all the rebates on the Impala, but also because prospective Chevy buyers don’t see anything to trade “up” to in a few years when shopping for their Malibu.

      Or, on the other end, imagine if Chevy had the Astra instead of Saturn and ditched the Cobalt. For the last few years they would have had a truly competitive small car.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    If I were king of the world, I would get rid of the entire range of Lincoln cars, and launch one completely new flagship as the beacon for the brand. One that delivers Bentley-style performance and luxury at a Lexus LS price. That means an entirely new RWD/AWD platform that could be shared with Ford after a year or two. It also means hiring designers that are more familiar with the virtues of a modern boutique hotel instead of a Ramada Inn. It means hiring lighting experts who know what a tail lamp should look like at night. That an old fashioned Edison bulb is not appropriate in a luxury car and that it takes more than four LEDs to comprise a lighting cluster. Then, using the same platform, develop a 5-Series, A6 competitor. Then, build a competitor to the S5, 6 Series and SL. Then a crossover. Finally, when the brand is firmly established as a viable luxury brand, build an entry level luxury sedan based on the fundamentals of the larger vehicles. Under no circumstances should a grotesque screaming-mouth grille be used.

    Am I crazy, or am I correct in thinking that the Lincoln team doesn’t understand anything about the luxury customer? “Good enough” won’t work for Lincoln to get back the customers they’ve lost. What they build needs to be absolutely spectacular to make it very clear that it’s not the same brand anymore.

  • avatar

    Ten years ago Lincoln was showing so much promise with its all-new LS, a tightly sprung, RWD sedan with sporting intentions and attractive, masculine styling. It wasn’t perfect, but it showed Lincoln still had potential and was to spawn a new family of sedans coupes, and sports cars under the Ford and Lincoln brands.

    What a difference a decade makes. Instead of evolving and improving an already good chassis, Lincoln seemed to spontaneously abandon all credibility in 2005 with the horrid Zephyr, which was a distinct and marked step backward from the LS. Last year’s garrish refresh didn’t help. That thing can’t even aspire to Buick’s latest styling renaissance. Seriously, try parking that Frankensteinian nightmare next to a 2010 Lacrosse and let’s see to whom the metro elite flock.

    Instead of working with and improving what already worked, Lincoln instead seemed to borrow Cadillac’s guide to the 1990′s entitled 1 step forward, and 2 steps back. Selling FWD as a legitimate luxury contender didn’t work back then and it ain’t gonna work now.

    Rest in Peace Lincon.

    • 0 avatar
      basho

      Have you been inside of or driven the 2010 MKS or MKZ with AWD? More specifically the Ecoboost MKS? I have and I own a 2006 LS V8, my car is not even in the same league as either car and I would gladly trade for either. I would take AWD over RWD any day of the week for a road driven car (track driven car is another story).

      Too many people comment on Lincoln based on their past experience. I can tell you a 2010 Lincoln MKZ, MKX, MKS or MKT is not even on the same planet as anything Lincoln had five years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnster

      I’m afraid that most people, even buyers of luxury cars, are put off by the perceived additional mechanical complexity and lack of durability of turbo-charged and super-charged engines. (And the Ecoboost V-6 is rather harsh-sounding, not like a smooth V-8. All that additional sound-deadening material helps, though.)

      The situation with AWD is similar, additional mechanical complexity and weight along with lower gas mileage.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I had a lot of optimism for the Lincoln brand back in the late 90′s when I first saw drawings of the LS sedan….RWD, European styling, etc. At the time that was a car I would’ve cross shopped against a bimmer or a Lexus. Today’s lineup…not so much. Everyone loves to beat up on the PAG, but since the LS was essentially an S-Type, and the only Lincoln I’ve looked at in my lifetime, it wasn’t a completely worthless venture.

    At the time Ford was swimming in SUV cash so I’m sure they dumped more into developing the LS than pretty much anything they’ve got today, but I think the talent still exists. Imagine if the LS was refined and updated and still with us today. I’m sure it would be a more valid luxury contender than anything they’ve currently got. Missed opportunities is the problem at Lincoln IMO.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    basho,

    I don’t think it’s unrealistic. Bentley sells under ten thousand cars worldwide each year. The Bentley Continental is based on a Phaeton platform and is completely within the doable range of a mass automaker. The Lexus LS alone sells about 60,000 worldwide. A fully optioned LS is able to provide near Bentley-like luxury for a third of the price because of the economies of scale they’ve achieved. Regardless, I’m not saying that Lincoln should copy Bentley. But they should understand the elements that make people pay more for one, and what cause people to disregard Lincoln completely.

  • avatar
    acentre

    Ford had a luxury brand for the masses, Volvo. For almost the price of an MKZ, you could have a Volvo S80 which is a better handling and looking car. I wonder why Ford did not eliminate Lincoln, which nobody under 50 would remember, and sell Volvos.

  • avatar
    KingShango

    Maybe some else has mentioned this but why can’t Ford just copy GM and put a new front end on their Australian cars? From what I’ve read the G6E is a great car. It’s RWD, has a turbo six and a V8 option. Load it with all the fancy new toys like Sync and self parking and you’ve got an instant competitor.

  • avatar
    Mr. Sparky

    The core problem with Lincoln is “Mass Luxury Syndrome”. Basically, mainstream cars have become so feature rich and well crafted that the need for dedicated luxury division is largely gone.

    People buying luxury cars are doing so due to existing loyalty, snob factor, or specific driving dynamics (the smallest group by far). This means that unless you have already made it into the “cool kid” club of Mercedes, BMW, and (maybe) Lexus then you are destined to slowly die out as your existing customer die off or revert to your mainstream brand (no mainstream brand? sorry:-( )

    If you look at all the luxury brands that are not in the “cool kid” club, they are all in long term doubt. Acura is in trouble (why is a TL 10K more than Accord ES again? SH-AWD?). Infiniti has some great products, but would they sell any worse with a Nissan logo?Jaguar? Not looking so good. Volvo isn’t be sold to the Chinese just for the cash. Ford knows that story will be ending a lot like Saab.

    GM has spent a fortune in both engineering and marketing to try to push Cadillac back from the brink. Yet, Cadillac only sold 1404 more cars the Lincoln last month. Like I said, for most of the driving public that have no clue which set of wheels drive their car, what does a $40K CTS do besides having smaller back seat that a $30K LaCrosse doesn’t?

    Hyundai was mocked when they added the Genesis line under the Hyundai badge, but it hasn’t hurt them at all. People that had to have a Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes weren’t going to be caught dead in a Hyundai anyway, so why bother with a separate division? People that wanted a great car for a great price won’t care.

    If I were at Ford, I would actually take brand engineering to its most extreme. I would discontinue Lincoln and put the Mercury logo on the front of every existing Ford product. Fords and Mercury cars would be identical (name and all) with the exception of the logo. This would essentially convert L/M dealership into Ford dealers without the nasty legal battles. I would push the Ford brand in all marketing to capture new customers, and I would leave Mercury to serve existing LM customers until they dry up.

    With plush leather seats in Honda Accords and Sync FordMyTouch in Ford Edges, all luxury brands outside of the “cool kids” are dead brands walking!

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      Mr. Sparky

      You make some good points. Relatively cheap cars are content rich these days, so what does “luxury” even mean?

      I often think that Lexus understands luxury best – the only reason to buy one is to show the world you can afford it (ok, and maybe a good dealer experience) No pretense about engineering, or pretending you like the way it slaloms through the S-curves.

      I wouldn’t rule out another maker being able to get into the cool kids club (though I don’t think Lincoln can do it) if they could come up with a hook of some sort.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    The current Lincoln lineup has lots of similarities to the Ford lineup, but they aren’t just rebadges. Each Lincoln has a very unique interior compared to the Ford model, and the Lincolns generally come with plenty of extra features to make up for the price difference.

    The comment that Lincoln models are priced higher than Audi models is completely off base. The MKZ is less than the A6, the MKS is less than the A8 (both of which are nearly identical in size to each other, the MKS is actually a bit bigger than the A8), and the MKT is less than the Q7. The MKX is a bit more than the Q5, but the Q5 is tiny in comparison.

    The Lincoln lineup may be mostly FWD, and may be Ford based, but they are all quality cars, have tons of equipment for the money, have identifiable styling, and offer great interior quality and reliability. The MKS is just as comfortable, well built, and advanced as any other full size luxury sedan, but costs thousands less similarly equipped. If there is a failing, it is in Lincoln’s marketing, which should be taking companies like BMW and Mercedes to task for daring to charge what they do as optional for what is standard on the Lincoln models.

    Sales may be lower than some other luxury brands, but January Lincoln sales still beat Infiniti and Audi, and came within a hair of Cadillac. The platform sharing has also helped keep development costs low, meaning each Lincoln sold is likely quite profitable overall to Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      “If there is a failing, it is in Lincoln’s marketing, which should be taking companies like BMW and Mercedes to task for daring to charge what they do as optional for what is standard on the Lincoln models.”

      .
      .

      Sounds like Hank the Duece’s marketing strategy: “My Granada looks just like your Mercedes! And your Cadillace looks just like my Granada!”

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Crash Sled –

      It might not be a bad way to go. If Ford is supposedly the everyman’s car, Lincoln could be the everyman’s luxury car. It will take lots of time and lots of money to build Lincoln’s reputation up to that of Mercedes or BMW, so what if there was a way to make it more profitable the way it is now?

      The old tagline ‘what a luxury car should be’ would work well. Lincolns offer comfort, convenience, acceptable to good performance, and an undeniable amount of bang for the buck in the luxury realm.

      If Ford is going to be the Timex of cars, let Lincoln be the Citizen – stylish, full featured, and tells time (drives) just as well as the Tag Heuer that costs over twice as much. Luxury cars for the unpretentious, who are looking for comfort and features but are more concerned with the bottom line than what the neighbors might think.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Hey, I’m down with that strategy. Keep down investment costs, take your profits and go on about your business. (But don’t let these TTAC purists catch you talking like this. You better keep it on the down low!)

  • avatar

    FWIW, my brother in law has driven Lincolns for decades. He switched to a Cadillac when Ford failed to update the Town Car and switched back as soon as the MKS was available. They love the MKS, my sister says it has “g-force acceleration” with the Ecoboost. He’d like a little more headroom so he could wear his hat in the car, he’s 6’5″, but he’s pretty happy with the MKS.

    Still, just like GM knows that Cadillac needs the XTS flagshp, so Lincoln really needs a first rate big sedan to compete with the best from Lexus, BMW and M-B.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I disagree with the idea that GM took a big swing at making Cadillac legitimate.

    I love the CTS and the Sigma platform more than most, but what did GM really do beyond that? Make the folding top-mechanism on the XLR and supercharging the Northstar V8?

    -The Escalade is a blinged-out Tahoe/Suburban/Avalanche.

    -The XLR was Corvette-based and priced way over what the market would pay for it.

    -The STS was largely uncompetitive on its release, is totally uncompetitive today, and GM has seemed okay with this since 2005.

    -The DTS is way too similar to what was around in 2000.

    -The new SRX doesn’t break any new ground, and is basically just a better looking (but more cramped) Equinox 3.0L.

    -The Northstar V8 is old, has a bad reliability reputation, and has no replacement on the horizon.

    -The XTS doesn’t look to be much of a flagship sedan. More of a fancy Lacrosse.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Cadillac 2009 sales numbers for cars:
      -CTS 38,817
      -DTS 17,330
      -STS 6,037
      -XLR 787
      -Cadillac Total 62,971

      And Lincoln:
      -MKS 17,174
      -MKZ 22,081
      -Town Car 11,375
      -Lincoln Total 50,630
      ————————-

      Cadillac Trucks:
      -Escalade 16,873
      -Escalade ESV 6,588
      -Escalade EXT 2,423
      -SRX 20,237
      -Cadillac Total 46,121

      And Lincoln:
      MKX 21,433
      MKT 858
      Navigator 8,057
      Mark LT 147
      Lincoln Total 30,495

      ————————-

      Cadillac is not the one you have to be worried about. Regardless of product, it’s selling TONS better than the Lincoln rabadges.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Ah, but I bet Lincoln is more profitable than Cadillac. No unique (and trouble prone!) engines, less unique tooling, no dedicates Lincoln-only platforms and a much smaller advertising budget. I bet Lincoln is delivering more dollars back to the company than Cadillac is.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Ah, but I bet Lincoln is more profitable than Cadillac. No unique (and trouble prone!) engines, less unique tooling, no dedicates Lincoln-only platforms and a much smaller advertising budget. I bet Lincoln is delivering more dollars back to the company than Cadillac is.

      So everything that would make Lincoln a legit player…they don’t have? Interesting.

      And I bet Cadillac is far more profitable as their whole line up has not been recently reskinned. With all of the changes and utterly horrible sales, there is no way Lincoln is making money (except for the Town Car).

      Lincoln is like that house from ‘The Money Pit’.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      In what universe is Cadillac a “legitimate” luxury division? In the real world, its reputation isn’t any better than that of Lincoln.

      The XLR and STS are flops. The CTS is a decent car, but it’s pretty much an also-ran in its segment. The DTS is on life support. The one Cadillac that really stands out in its segment is the Escalade.

      The only difference is that Ford, unlike GM, didn’t spend about $4 billion to arrive at essentially the same place.

      As for Cadillac being profitable – GM spent billions giving the division new models based on a new, Cadillac-only platform built in a brand-new plant dedicated to the construction of Cadillacs during this decade. As noted above, all of them except one, the CTS, failed to sell in anything approaching reasonable numbers. That’s not a recipe for profits.

      The “unique” engine that supposedly sets Cadillac apart – the Northstar V-8 – has a terrible reputation in the real world. It’s very troubleprone and not likely to last much beyond 100,000 miles.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    While Ford lost money on the PAG, I don’t think anyone can disagree that Jaguar and Aston-Martin are in much better shape now than when Ford bought them.

    Agreed. I also feel Ford upped Volvo’s game, modernizing their design and bettering their reliability. Volvo lost it when they went fwd in ’93 with the 850….

  • avatar

    BDB: Excellent points well stated.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    None of the rebadged Fords…err…Lincolns are selling. The MKFlex has yet to break 1K units a month…probably because of it’s looks and price…the MKFusion looks terrible and is clearly a “way too expensive” Fusion, the MKEdge…ditto on the looks (terrible) and is perhaps the worst of the rebadges (ignoring the ancient Town Car), the MKTaurus is priced WAYYYY out of it’s league…the new Lacrosse is a better car in looks and price.

    Ford has made a lot of bonehead decisions of late…but the biggest one was selling Volvo at a huge loss and keeping the dead weight that is Lincoln and Mercury. They are both brands that are not taken seriously in the market. Buick has it all over Lincoln (their main competitor) and Mercury is just pointless.

    Add to that Ford (foolishly) moving upmarket…and there really is no reason to look at Lincoln. What does the top of the line Lincoln Flex offer over the top of the line Ford Flex (aside from…believe it or not…worse looks)?

    What does the Lincoln Taurus Twin Force offer above and beyond the Taurus SHOW that justifies it’s $10K increase in price?

    It’s no wonder nobody takes Lincoln seriously when they can get the same car from Ford…minus the silver paint on the radio buttons.

    And this practice of throwing any arbitrary letter after two arbitrary letters for the Lincoln’s names has got to go (maybe faster than the MKT).

    It’s bad enough Ford has flushed Lincoln down the toilet, but at least give the re-badges decent names.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The current L-M lineup costs very little for Ford to keep going. I agree with those above who said that Ford first has to make the Ford brand bring in every dollar of sales and profits available to it before putting serious money behind revamping Lincoln and/or Mercury. Until then it is fine to keep those brands in keep-alive mode.

    But, they should ditch the mind numbingly stupid Lincoln “names” yesterday. MK_ doesn’t resonate. BTW, Acura made the same mistake when they ditched the Legend, Integra and Vigor names. Silly acronyms have no pizzaz. Just because the Mercedes and BMW get away with it doesn’t make it smart.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. Sparky

      Amen. At least the German “names” are systematic and tell you something about the car (a 3XX or CXXX is a smaller car than a 5XX or EXXX… The “X” number tell you engine displacement). What does MK_ tell me? If every car and CUV has MK on the front, why bother with it at all? At least if they just used a single letter, I might be able to remember which is which.

      Acura is just as bad or worse. They almost appear to mean something. ZDX, MDX, RDX are all CUVs and thus end in X. Thus, a TSX is a CUV… Uh, no. It’s a car that happens to be smaller than a TL. Well the rest of the cars all end in L. So R comes before T so a TL must be “better” and more expensive than an RL? Nope. Try again! (Ok, the TL really is better, but not according to the offical pecking order!)

    • 0 avatar
      AccAzda

      MAN.

      Are you serious.

      You cant figure out the name of a said car from Lincoln and or Acura?

      I should write a 20pg document and pass this out to people who ask that question.

      Silly?
      Automakers spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year, re-enforcing what the name an class a car is and you, think its silly / stupid.

      Do you really want me to get into my auto naming diatribe?

      Go ask FORD how much the Taurus name cost them.. to reintroduce.

      Ask them how much the 500 went to waste.

      Ask them how much the Contour and Mistique cost them.

      Ask them how much it would cost to replace the Escape with the KUGA.

      As them how much the TAURUS / Fusion is worth against the MONDEO from UK.

      Between the just the domestics, you could refinance the national DEBT, with JUST the MONEY they spent to get you to buy one of the hundred car names they throw away.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. Sparky

      @AccAzda: You appear to completely miss the point… Perhaps, you should read my post before posting.

      The point being is that to the causal customer (which is pretty much everyone that DOESN’T READ A CAR BLOG) these names are A) Absolutely Meaningless and B) Confusing. I bet that if you asked the average owner of a Lincoln MK_ what make and model of car he/she drives. They will say its a Lincoln M-something.

      If I say I drive an MKS, that is pretty much meaningless to anyone that doesn’t pay attention to the car world. If I say I drive a Continental, that conjures up a mental image of a large comfortable American sedan in a large part of the population.

      That’s why Ford ditched the equally meaningless “500″ label for the Taurus label. What the hell is a 500? And why does anyone other than you care? Taurus, that’s a different story.

      PS:

      I really don’t need a history on Lincoln naming. I’ve actually owned two Lincolns, and I’m well aware that the “MK” is suppose to mean “Mark” (Seeing that I owned at 96 Mark VIII)… That is until the dealers complained, and they went to “Em-Kay”. You’ll notice that my Acura example is pitch perfect on which model goes where. My previous car was 3rd generation TL.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Ask them how much the 500 went to waste.

      It was Five Hundred…not 500.

      Lincoln’s naming scheme makes no sense. It is nonsensical and damaging to the Lincoln brand (as if Ford hasn’t done enough damage).

      Nothing Lincoln rebadges is worth keeping. They need to scrap the whole line–names and all–and start over. Nothing they peddle is memorable…or very good. They are bland appliances.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    @AccAzda: Do you really want me to get into my auto naming diatribe?

    Sure. But only if you have a point.

    • 0 avatar
      AccAzda

      A first grade child, could figure out the nomenclature of Lincoln.

      And I’m REALLY getting SICK and TIRED of having to discuss that same concept with people in here.

      Lincoln Mark = MK.. is what debuted on a series of cars back in the late 60s early 70s.

      REGARDLESS of few in here putting the pieces together.

      Pronounced EM-KAY (and the corresponding ending letter.)

      MKLT = “Light Truck” F-150.
      MKX stands for crossover = EDGE.
      MKT stands for “TRUCK” FLEX
      MKS stands for sedan = TAURUS.
      MKZ stands for Sedan = FUSION.

      In some automakers.. the X, T, S, Z letters are in line of cost or social importance.

      That took 3 minutes to write out..

      But if you look at it from any level, it doesnt make much sense. But again, it makes perfect sense.

      As for Acura goes..
      It started out with RL, TL, RSX and NSX (Forget higher v lower social importance b.s and cost associated) with the SX cars being coupes.

      And soon blossomed into

      MDX Pilot
      RDX CRV design
      ZDX canted rear clip are all CUVs
      RSX was the successor to the Integra that bombed.
      NSX…. thats too easy.

      It can be argued that M/R/ZDX are all crossovers, with NSX and RSX canned.

      With the TSX (could be followed by a TLX and or RLX) or (TS with TL and RL) for sedans.

      In convention… their system is broken.
      However, that doesnt stop me or anyone in here… from following the nomenclature EASILY.

      I can go into MB and BMW nomenclature, in case you cant figure out the difference between the SLR and a GL

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. Sparky

      Sorry, but you do not make it to the bonus round…

      MKLT = “Light Truck” F-150.

      WRONG. I believe you mean Mark-LT. They spell that one out because Lincoln hadn’t quite gotten their Em-Kay shit together when the now Mexico only model debuted.

      MKX stands for crossover = EDGE.

      Good job…

      MKT stands for “TRUCK” FLEX

      Sorry… The general consensus is Touring… But who really knows since Ford never actual says. Truck doesn’t make much sense since MKT is a D-4 based crossover (I should know, I have a Flex).

      MKS stands for sedan = TAURUS.

      S for sedan sounds great. Ford never really said, but at least its one of the more rational ideas in this list. I’ll give you a pass here.

      MKZ stands for Sedan = FUSION.

      Uh, NO. Z stands for Zephyr which was the name the car debuted with in 2006. Then, in 2007, the car got the 3.5 liter “Cyclone” engine and a new name thanks to the Lincoln Mark/EmKay crazy train leaving the station.

      Hey, you missed the Navigator… Oh right, IT HAS MEANINGFUL NAME! Most people know what a Navigator is. I rest my case.

      May I recommend the “Lincoln Week” series here on TTAC?

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    @AccAzda: “A first grade child, could figure out the nomenclature of Lincoln. And I’m REALLY getting SICK and TIRED of having to discuss that same concept with people in here.”

    Well, thanks, that was , uh….well, something, I don’t know what. Boy, are you condescending! I guess the Dungeons and Dragons crowd won’t let you play with them anymore, huh?

  • avatar

    And in the end, I and others could care less.

    The model names, both Lincoln’s and Acura’s, mean absolutely NOTHING to me and other consumers.

    The best thing that both makers can do is to go back to using real names, not this alphabet soup crap.


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