By on April 2, 2012

If it weren’t for a Manhattan nightclub shooting in 1999, there’s a very good chance that it would be Cadillac, not Lincoln, that would be undertaking a costly showroom upgrade program, a brand “reboot” to shed a mushy identity and a hail-mary attempt at saving the ailing luxury division.

The shooting I’m referring to, involving Sean “P.Diddy” Combs, Jennifer Lopez and rapper/ba’al teshuva Shyne effectively ended Lincoln’s connection to the main cultural medium of the last two decades; hip-hop music. A former Ford PR exec explained that once upon a time, when shiny track suits were the height of fashion among urban musicians, Lincoln and P. Diddy were going to collaborate on a product placement/endorsement deal, that would see the car featured in rap videos, magazine photo shoots and song lyrics. It was a fairly sophisticated marketing strategy that would likely have changed Lincoln’s fortunes for the better. Unfortunately, the scandal surrounding the nightclub shooting, and the fact that Diddy’s company-car Navigator had a hidden stashbox for pistols and god knows what else, led Ford to cancel the deal. And guess who stepped in to fill the void?

Cadillac. Was the 1999 Navigator a better car than the barely disguised Denali-with-a-Caddy-crest that was the 1999 Escalade? Maybe so. It doesn’t really matter. From that point on, the Escalade was everywhere. it still is everywhere, from crappy reality shows to rap videos to car services to UN diplomat transportation. I’d go as far as to argue that it was not only a watershed moment in automotive trivia, but in our culture at large. It was the moment when the Saab 900s and Volkswagen Jettas pushed by Q-Tip and Biggie (as in, driven, not marketed) were inadequate. The Escalade was flashy, and it cost a lot of money. It was the moment when a whole generation of consumers suddenly became hopelessly aspirational, when Cadillac ceased to become a car a symbol of American luxury, but instead a symbol of vulgarity. The car of choice for Don Draper is now the car of choice for The Situation. The Escalades dominance was only cemented when Lincoln tried to challenge the Escalade EXT on its own turf with both the Blackwood and Mark LT pickups. They were about as well received as Planned Parenthood canvasser knocking on the door of the Santorum family home.

The Escalade may be today’s version of the Sixty Special, but today’s Lincoln is a shadow of its former self. When I reviewed the Navigator back in February, most of my cohort was amazed that the Navigator was still in production. When I had the Escalade a year early, I was bombarded with request for rides and pleas to chauffeur my friends to nightclubs on the weekend. Even my ex-girlfriend asked if I could take her for a drive. The fact that the Escalade is, at best, a long-in-the-tooth tarted up GM full-size SUV is irrelevant. It has more cachet with Generation Why than any Lincoln has had in decades.

The Lincoln brand itself isn’t entirely poison amongst young people. The 1963 Continental, which had a big role on shows like Entourage is frequently cited as one of the most beautiful cars that people my age can think of. The Town Car even has its own prestige among a certain crowd that is less comfortable with conspicuous consumption. Said one friend of mine “if you see a Phantom pull up, it’s usually driven by a guy wearing a scarf and sunglasses even though it’s night-time in August. If you see a Town Car idling at the curb, he’s either very important, on his way to the airport – or both.”

The problem is, there’s nothing in the lineup right now that is as remotely compelling as either of those cars. And while Generation Why may not have to money to buy a Lincoln just yet, their average consumer age is 60 years old, the highest in the industry. At 57, Cadillac isn’t far behind, but they’ve already got the brand equity built up to ensure that a Millennial will seriously consider an ATS once he’s on the partner track. But will they give Lincoln a second look?

In 24 hours, we’ll know whether Lincoln sinks or swims. All the boutique showrooms and smartphone-enabled service bays mean nothing if the new MKZ is not an absolute knockout. The car has glimmers of promise; despite the buff books oohing and aahing over the V6 option, the real “killer app” will be the hybrid. If it can match the Fusions 47/44 mpg rating, Lincoln will give consumers a compelling reason to purchase one based on green snobbery alone. The tech-laden interior and panoramic targa sunroof rumored to be coming should also provide more tangible novelty in a segment saturated with endless tech gadgets and marketing narrative fluff. These details matter more than rear-drive, direct injection or Nurburgring lap times. As much as Cadillac may tout these, the truth is that anyone buying an ATS will be doing so to impress other people, not for any sort of performance pedigree.

The MKZ’s entry-level price relative to its competitors means that Generation Why may have a real shot of affording these cars soon. But the car’s biggest obstacle won’t be the “wrong wheel drive” chassis or the lack of a European pedigree. It will be the 2013 Ford Fusion. If too many of them get wise to the fact that the MKZ is a more expensive version of the Fusion, a car that “looks like an Aston” has identical mechanical bits, a sharp interior with all the tech toys, then the 20 percent price premium for the Lincoln may no longer seen so appealing. Generation Why may be the most aspirational of all, but they’re the ones who became financially responsible for themselves during the height of the Great Recession, and they’re never above passing up good value. Lincoln may be a premium brand, but they’re not premium enough to justify the extra money. If that ends up being the case, can Lincoln even justify its own existence? Without the Town Car, or any statement of big, American luxury, their cars have turned into ill-defined, awkwardly priced pseudo-luxury vehicles that still have numerous redeeming qualities. That sounds a little too familiar.

 

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98 Comments on “Generation Why: Lincoln Is About To Lose Them...”


  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    A Lincoln is a body on frame full size brick sedan made for successful businessmen. The Continental is a lady’s version of the Lincoln.

    Don Draper is supposed to drive a Lincoln, not a Cadillac. His ex-wife Betty is supposed to ride around in a Caddy, not Don.

    Ford blew it when they killed Mercury. All the current Lincolns should have been rebadged as Mercurys and Ford should have had a big ass replacement for the Town Car that made it look like an affordable Rolls.

    Lincoln Mercury dealers are the same. Whether they sell the same cars labeled as either, makes little difference. However, if Ford was serious about relaunching Lincoln, they need to relaunch it with a real Lincoln.

    The current line up is not Lincoln. Those are Mercurys. When the Town Car died, Lincoln did too.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “A Lincoln is a body on frame full size brick sedan made for successful businessmen. The Continental is a lady’s version of the Lincoln.”

      What decade are you from? Lincolns have always just been more-expensive Fords. Just like Buicks & Cadillacs have always been more expensive Chevys, for most of my life.

      I’m in my early 30s. Badge engineering was at its worst when I was old enough to start reading the nameplates on cars and wondering why the same car had 2-3 names, and I was puzzled to find out that the same car was sold at different prices depending on the logo-stickers on it. Ford, GM, and Chrysler coasted for a generation on ancient brand recognition, and it’ll take another generation to build those brands again. Or, they could just forget the whole thing, slap their conglomerate’s stock symbol on the car, build great cars, and sell them on their merits as cars.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        You don’t have to be old to know the history of a brand.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        You do have to be old to care.

        Seriously, if you believe all of that stuff you said about Lincoln, you’re buying in to a brand-image that died before I was born. Seriously, Lincoln and Mercury have been just a source of funny-looking Panthers for most of my lifetime.

        Now Lincoln is a source of a funny looking Fusion — and you can get a Fusion with all of the features that define luxury for me (leather, sunroof, heated seats) — without having to have a funny looking car.

        I don’t see any reason for Ford to have other nameplates. They make nice Fords, they make rugged Fords, they make fast Fords, and people are fine with that. Why try to differentiate a product that which isn’t really any different?

        Of course, instead of being comfortable, some people define luxury in a petty “you can’t have what I have” way. I don’t think Lincoln can wrench this market away from BMW and Mercedes, unless their new pricing strategy is “no car under $60k” and they have the original luxury vehicles to prove it. I’d guess that the super-expensive car market is already being fully served, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Let me refine this thought a bit.

        Suppose that American luxury nameplates used to provide affordable luxury. But in the last half century or so, normal cars have all moved upmarket and now provide all of the features that someone looking for affordable luxury might possibly want. For instance, my 10 year old beater Escape has these features, and my personal penchant for luxury is satiated by a beaten down daddymobile that I bought because I needed cheap kid-friendly transportation with a trailer hitch.

        So, with the affordable luxury market being satisfied by optioned up Fords, the only place for a luxury nameplate to go is the exclusivity market. (The same market that I referred to as “petty” above. But, hey, people pay for it so I’ll set my opinion aside.) In order to do that, all Lincolns will have to be very expensive ($55k+) and have no platform-sharing with Ford. I’m thinking three Lincoln platforms – a performance luxury machine that can be dressed as a sedan, wagon, or CUV, a Z3 competitor, and a limousine.

        I don’t see much hope for reviving Lincoln to what it was. The world moved on decades ago. Selling supercars to the rich is about the only option that I can see that would revive or even maintain the brand.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Another way to go would be for Ford to just admit the reality that’s existed for my entire lifetime, and keep the “Lincoln” name as a high-end trim level.

        That way, I could get a Ford Focus Titanium Edition (if I’m sporty), or a Ford Focus Lincoln Edition (if I want a tarted up luxury focus).

        This has been the reality for decades, and they could just admit it and leave the Ford stickers on the cars.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        VanillaDude: No, but to care about it.

        Now that I replied, I see Lookfortwo already said that… That’s what you get for leaving browser windows open for days on end.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’m sure that theres a few Fords too, just with sillier grilles and higher prices.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      The classic 61’s were unit body construction til ’69, shared with Thuderbirds of the time. Didn’t get BOF till 1970.

  • avatar

    I just read “American Icon” about Alan Mutally’s masterful revival of Ford. It is interesting to note that in many places, he is on record as saying that he would rather have only one brand – the Blue Oval. He is not sure how much value Lincoln can really bring to the table, but is willing to give his marketing department a chance to prove him wrong.

    It’s interesting how this article echoes his analysis, and it will be very interesting to see how well they can differentiate Lincoln from Ford.

    The book was a great read, if lacking in detail. It would have been nice to hear more about the battles Mutally had to fight with the old guard. In his telling – and the book is very much his story – the company had great people who just had to be rearranged and given the power to push their ideas – which, ironically, many of them already had but were unable to execute.

    Fans of corporate infighting would be well served listening to the story of Mark Fields, who was a leading CEO candidate before Mutally came in. Fields accepted the Mutally way so completely that he is now Mutally’s heir apparent. Looks like being part of a good team helped him a lot.

    Now that they have a nice turnaround, I hope they all get their corporate jets back. Nobody deserves that perk more than this management team :).

    D

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      This attitude, though, illustrates the main problem Lincoln is facing. It’s not the marketing department. They’re doing the best they can with what they have. It’s the product. People who shell out luxury car money don’t want a rebodied Ford. I don’t think they need a retro-inspired body-on-frame sedan like VD is suggesting but they need something that is clearly different than what Ford is selling. Right now they just seem like the top trim level for Ford rather than a separate brand.

      • 0 avatar

        Lexus’ best-selling model is the top trim level of the Camry, so perhaps this isn’t as bad a business model as we think.

        Why does Lexus get a pass on this issue with the public, while Lincoln does not?

        Perhaps because it has the LS400 and successors and the halo effect works.

        In that case, Ford’s people should work on such a model. Did Cadillac ever come out with anything based on that gorgeous four door convertible concept they had a year or so back?

        D

      • 0 avatar
        brickgeek

        arisutle is correct here. I am a 31 year old Systems Engineer. I do well for myself. Current car is a 2005 Volvo S60R. I love it, but thoughts of getting something new pop into my head from time to time. I am a car guy at heart, but want something practical and comfortable for daily use with a bit of grunt when I want to have some fun. I should be a target market for a Lincoln.

        I grew up in a Ford family. My parents currently have two Lincolns. Dad got a good price on them because the dealer simply could not move them off the lot. I drive them around when I am back visiting.

        The Lincoln MK…I don’t know what it is called. The one based on the Ford Edge. That is the first problem, I have no idea what the model is other than being a Ford Edge. It handles adequately and rides smooth. The seating position is pretty good. The interior is nice, not as nice as my Volvo, but still nice. Overall, a fun little runabout. It acts as my mom’s car. One day, I go to fill up the fuel tank. I pop the hood to check the oil…wtf, is this a hood prop?! A hood prop on a Lincoln? Seriously? It sounds like a small detail, but it kind of ruins the illusion of luxury. Now there was no doubt that it is a Ford Edge warmed over.

        Dad drives a Mark LT. Which is just a F150 with some upgrades. Yeah, it has a different set of heads on the engine. The suspension is also less harsh. In the end, it is just an F150. The seats are beautiful to look at. They look like they are right out of a 60’s Continental, but they are damn unsupportive. Because of the distance between where the chassis rotates in a turn and where the driver’s butt is, you slide all over the damn place in normal city traffic. It does not lend a sense of “poise” that you should have in a luxury vehicle. That being said, it is probably the most comfortable vehicle that Lincoln sells to transport four large midwestern adults.

        I just feel like Lincoln is so hamstrung by budgets and the downward spiral that they will be unable to recover. They don’t offer a vehicle worth the asking price. I wish they did though. I would love to have a tarted up Mustang with a vault like interior as a daily driver. Or a big ass RWD sedan for hauling my work buddies to lunch in.

        Sadly, I suspect there is really no hope for them now. Ford has improved to the point where Lincoln’s current products are just not relevant. It’s a pity.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    As a guy in his late twenties who drove a string of secondhand Lincolns of all vintages through college and now has an income that would support a luxury car purchase, their wrong wheel drive chassis are absolutely the biggest obstacle to selling me a car.

    I have a soft spot for Lincoln, like what Ford has done recently, and want these guys to give me a reason to give them my money. As long as they’re building nothing but FWD-based cars and hulking trucks I’ll just keep it.

    A 4-door Mustang-based Lincoln sedan/wagon available with an upscale interior and a stick would get me in a buying mood, though.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      Wasn’t the Mustang based on the 4-door LS (which was available with a stick?)

      A sporty Lincoln seems out of place. I suppose to me Lincoln always brings up a mental image of a frumpy, soggy car for Q-tip heads (Town Car), or the Mark # vehicles which seemed to be the preferred ride for divorced cougars.

      I never really got the RWD love with these big barges – Are you really going to dial in some power-oversteer on a twisty canyon road with a flat, unsupportive bench, marshmallowy shocks, and tires that squeal in protest on any curve sharper than a Great Circle navigation route. These cars are designed to insulate one from the feel and experience of driving, not enhance it. If someone (calling you, Panther-lovers) would care to explain the appeal of RWD in a car not designed as drivers’ cars, and not intended for commercial/agricultural uses like pickups, I’d be most appreciative.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “Are you really going to dial in some power-oversteer on a twisty canyon road with a flat, unsupportive bench, marshmallowy shocks, and tires that squeal in protest on any curve sharper than a Great Circle navigation route.”

        Yes.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Heavy cars require a lot of torque to get moving with any degree of responsiveness. Putting lots of torque through a front-wheel-drive system generally results in torque steer.

        It’s entirely possible to mitigate this through some clever engineering, and indeed Cadillac has been doing so since the sixties when they released the first FWD Eldorado. Still, a classy luxo-barge shouldn’t try to yank the wheel out of the driver’s hands when you hit the gas.

      • 0 avatar
        Gardiner Westbound

        A RWD car is significantly lighter than other configurations. Front/rear weight balance is superior. Dynamic forces are more evenly distributed, the rear wheels supply the power and the fronts do the cornering and braking. Cornering ability is much better than FWD cars. They are very good on snow and ice with winter tires. Less complex mechanics reduces RWD life cycle maintenance and repair expense.

        I prefer RWD for its predicable handling and intuitive problem solving, particularly on snow and ice. The solution for a slide in a RWD car is to let up on the gas, gently apply the brakes and let the car correct itself. Both responses are completely intuitive. In the same circumstance in a FWD car the correct response is to stay off the brakes and hit the gas to power out of the slide, the opposite to one’s normal reactions. I doubt many drivers know or successfully master the latter technique, or have the steely nerves to apply it in an emergency.

      • 0 avatar
        Darkhorse

        Hey B&B. Why did the LS fail? It seemed like the perfect foil for the E class.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        If you mean the Mustang based its floor pans on the LS you’d be right. Otherwise it was pretty much Mustang specific.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        Maybe ajla answered “Yes.” to

        “Are you really going to dial in some power-oversteer on a twisty canyon road with a flat, unsupportive bench, marshmallowy shocks, and tires that squeal in protest on any curve sharper than a Great Circle navigation route.”

        because ajla knows that a true Great Circle navigation route is in fact a straight line (in the horizontal plane)?

        Maybe afflo knew that when writing the question?

        I can’t tell whether this is great writing on one or both their parts, or if they just got lucky.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “Putting lots of torque through a front-wheel-drive system generally results in torque steer.”

      Ford uses a revo knuckle suspension on the Focus RS/RS 500. I think those two cars make 300hp/325hp all going to the front wheels. I’ve never driven one but those who have say torque steer is not a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      Darkhorse: One reason the LS failed was the sense of cheapness radiated by the dashboard, the same one used in the retro Thunderbird (and part of the reason for its failure as well). Buyers (especially buyers of pricey cars) know that they will have to look at that dashboard for hundreds or thousands of hours, and the LS/T-bird dash was incredibly un-special. (This is a mistake Ford had made before, with the original dash of the new-for-1989 Thunderbird and Cougar; in that case they finally spent the money for a better-looking one 4 or 5 years later, but by then it was too late to make much difference.)

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    And Cadillac start it’s stake about a decade ago. How long can Lincoln last with today’s competition?

  • avatar
    hitman1970

    “when Cadillac seized to become a car a symbol of American luxury, but instead a symbol of vulgarity”

    You are looking for the word ceased and not seized in this sentence. The rest of the wording is off as well. Do not think you need “a car” in there either.

    Agree with MKZ biggest competitor being the Fusion on the same lot.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I didn’t know they were reviving Oldsmobile. That front end looks just as I would envision a 2013 Olds.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    I’m going to go ahead and argue that Hip-Hop has not been “main cultural medium of the last two decades”. The main “pop cultural medium” perhaps, but maybe not even that. But I will agree that the big shiny things that Ford and Cadillac made over the last two decades certainly attracted a certain negative cultural element.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Sure it is, among urban bastard youth and suburban wiggers.

      Group A won’t own a new car, ever. Group B will, eventually, but by then they’ve generally outgrown the rebel-without-a-cause/mom-look-at-me thing.

    • 0 avatar

      When a rapper called Spaceghost Purp can get thousands of bearded upper-middle class hipsters at the SXSW to nod and rap along to his song “Suck A N**** Dick 2011″, I’d say that Hip-Hop’s cultural hegemony among the young is complete.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        That assumes that music is a main driver of culture, like it was decades ago. It’s not. The Internet has replaced it as the main way people partake in culture.

        Music is just entertainment, now.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Right now, even in my late 40’s, Lincoln doesn’t impress and I do think both the Escalade and the Navigator need to be axed as they are now irrelevant to the future as gas supplies and price become issues as we move forward.

    Otherwise, the days of the original continental was indeed Lincoln and we can still bring something like that back, but in a more modern package and have it still be enough differentiated from the more plebeian Ford, not that there is anything wrong with Ford by itself, but compared to Lincoln, it’s an everyman’s marquee.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “…they are now irrelevant to the future as gas supplies and price become issues as we move forward.”

      I disagree. If people are still willing to buy them they should continue to be made.

      And if you’re basing your argument solely on gas supplies you’re going to indict a slew of cars including the entire BMW M division, Mercedes AMG, Audi RS, Cadillac V, Ford SVT…you get the picture.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    I have said many many times that upper tier cars (the CARS) should be all about premium; premium handling / premium quality / premium power / premium fuel economy. Upper tier dealers (THE DEALER EXPERIENCE) should be about luxury; Luxuty buying experience / luxury serivce experience / luxury customer service. BMW and Audi figured this out like 2 decades ago. Don Draper over at Lincoln is still scractching his head about plush leather seats and a cushy ride in a rebadged Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Cadillac is about elegance, and Lincoln is about class.

      Money doesn’t buy these things. A hip hop mogul doesn’t have them.

      An elegant car is one that is graceful and thoughtful, filled with suprising warm touches. It sweeps down the road like a magic carpet. Today’s Cadillacs don’t.

      A classy car is one that is traditional, immediately recognizable, powerful and unsurprising. Today’s Lincolns aren’t.

      When Mercedes began succeeding in the US, we see the bottom falling out for Cadillac and Lincoln. Instead of meeting the challenges, GM and Ford cheapened the brands. The short term gains in sales have been eliminated by the long term costs in brand credibility. When these brands became sales cows, they lost any prestige, class and elegance they once had to buyers. Neither brand has returned to what they did best.

      Both Cadillac and Lincoln have been chasing fads the past forty years. If there were any need for a retro makeover for any brands, it should have been them. Instead of a retro Thunderbird or HHS, Ford and GM should have issued a retro Cadillac and Lincoln. Retro would work better with these brands because there is a need for benchmarks in prestige, elegance and class within a society – even a society like America’s.

      A Rolls-styled vehicle costing thousands less, using the best Ford technologies, rear drive, body on frame, full size classic retro Lincoln would be a success. While not a Navigator, an Aviator, or a Mark Truck, it would reaffirm for the brand that it was back in the business of supplying traditional classic denoting world class success.

      This vehicle may be very good, but it isn’t classy or elegant.

      • 0 avatar
        Speed Spaniel

        I like the concept of a Rolls-styled vehicle and I might add a luxury/performance coupe based on the Mustang platform and internals a la Infiniti G37 style. I really like the Mustang, but I’m a professional guy and at 46 feel they are a bit too kiddish and don’t quite fit my corporate image (ugh, did I really just say that?). A hi performance luxury coupe priced 38K to 45K, a tad more refined than the Mustang, made by Lincoln is something I might consider……

      • 0 avatar
        jhott997

        “…using the best Ford technologies, rear drive, body on frame, full size classic retro Lincoln would be a success.”
        Really? body on frame? How quaint. A lousy riding 1960’s floating boat. That’s clearly the formula for a resurgent Lincoln.
        Proof the name brand is dead. RIP Lincoln.
        At this point, isn’t Lincoln’s sole market employees, retirees and family members in SE Michigan?

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “A Rolls-styled vehicle costing thousands less, using the best Ford technologies, rear drive, body on frame, full size classic retro Lincoln would be a success.”

        Well, if that were true, they’d build it. Perhaps the market has moved on…welcome Hyundai Genesis and Kia – whatever…

        Too bad. Why don’t I care?

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        @speedspaniel

        “…I’m a professional guy and at 46 feel they are a bit too kiddish and don’t quite fit my corporate image…”

        Just wondering what you do?

        I’ve heard that before about other cars (WRX, GTI). In one case the guy who said it was driving a Camry. I’ll take a WRX, GTI, Mustang over a Camry any day of the week…but that’s just me.

      • 0 avatar
        Speed Spaniel

        @ hubcap

        I work in investment banking for a conservative firm. I wouldn’t want to steal any of my administrative assistant’s thunder by driving her Mustang. I don’t drive a Camry and never would as that is the automotive equivalent of male castration. Admittedly my present vehicles aren’t the pinnacle of automotive excitement and I really really really really miss my ’07 S4. I envision tooling around in my afterlife with my sprint blue beauty preferably in a place where it is cooler rather than hotter. Why do warranties have to run out?

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        I think you’ve got everything spot on except for the time frame. The beginning of the end for Lincoln and Cadillac has its roots at the end of World War II. The failure of the Continental Mk II and the demise of Packard marked the end of the truly high-end American luxury car. Both Lincoln and Cadillac realized — Cadillac first, I’d argue — that they couldn’t afford to do business in the upper echelons.

        That being said, the vehicle you describe — “a Rolls-styled vehicle costing thousands less, using the best Ford technologies, rear drive, body on frame, full size classic retro Lincoln” — sounds a lot like exactly what Lincoln did in the ’70s. After all, Henry II basically created a market when he ordered his styling department to “stick a Rolls Royce grille on a T-bird” to create the Mark III. That formula is what led them to *become* sales cows in the ’70s.

        I’m not sure it isn’t the right formula (aside from body-on-frame, which is pointless — remember, the “shaver” Continental was unibody). But let’s not pretend it’s coming from a place of purity or integrity. The Cadillacs and Lincolns that succeeded in the past were always pretty dependent on the corporate parts bins — the suicide door Continentals of the ’60s were pretty dependent on Mercury, Edsel, and Thunderbird components, and the ’59 Cadillac was designed around a door shared with Buick.

        The key back then was that despite the commonality, the cars looked and felt special. I think Cadillac has done a pretty good job recapturing some of that magic in their current lineup; I’m hoping Lincoln can find a way to do the same over the next couple of years.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “Cadillac is about elegance, and Lincoln is about class.”

        I thought Cadillac was about paying too much for a Chevy, and Lincoln was about paying too much for a Ford.

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    And why wasn’t Combs arrested, indicted, and put on trial for having and firing his weapon in NYC?

  • avatar
    bunkie

    “anyone buying an ATS will be doing so to impress other people, not for any sort of performance pedigree”

    Really? Considering that the image of Cadillac is considered to be down-market compared to BMW, MB or Audi, I seriously doubt that. And, given that the new 3 series has a lumpy motor and a flabby ride (compared to the outgoing model), The performance versions of the ATS could well have a real chance to turn some heads. And, lest we forget, the CTS-V is a very real choice when it comes to aspirational performance sedans (and wagons, I might add). These days, Cadillac has some very real performance credibility.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      I agree. If anything anyone buying an Audi A4 is doing it for reasons other than driving pleasure/performance.

      Using the CTS-V as a bellwether I’d say the ATS-V will be a performance beast and I also think the turbo 4 and V-6 options will be very, very good drivers cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Toucan

        > I agree. If anything anyone buying an Audi A4
        > is doing it for reasons other than driving
        > pleasure/performance.

        You couldn’t have been more wrong.

        People buy them for their completeness, performance and driving pleasure being in the package. And forced induction quattro Audis are one of the best (if not the best) cars to drive in real world conditions.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “You couldn’t have been more wrong.

        People buy them for their completeness, performance and driving pleasure…”

        People buy A4s for performance? Really? I think you’re having a Hilary Clinton moment (willing suspension of disbelief). People buy the A4 (and A3) for the badge, and that’s ok.

        The S4/S5 (and S3…are you listening Audi?) are more in line with what enthusiasts want, at least in my mind.

        I will say I should not have used “all” in my previous comment. Let’s just say most.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        People may be buying A4s primarily for its badge, but the cars also fulfills their expectation of an expensive, luxury car with well designed and carefully assembled interiors, made of quality materials, in the way the car drives, etc.

        Othewise it would fail, like the Cimarron (Which does have a Cadillac badge back when it still meant something, but none of the Cadillac quality.)

  • avatar
    tparkit

    Lincoln? Their brand identity is “A great, well-depreciated buy on the used-car market!”

    …and I’m sure it’s not warrented, but my own, enduring impression of the Navigator is that it’s a vehicle driven by an (aggressive jerk).

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    This brand holds no innovation, prestige, styling advantage or value. Don’t understand why anyone would put Lincoln on their shopping list. As much as I’m not a fan of Hyundai and Kia, I’m sure they will be buying up the empty real estate from those empty Saab and soon to be closed Lincoln dealerships.

    • 0 avatar
      tirving

      Just bought the Luckiest Woman on Earth a Kia Soul from Citrus Kia in Ontario, CA, formerly known as Citrus Lincoln/Mercury.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Prestige will come as the new models continue to differentiate themselves from their Ford platform-mates. Styling took a major step forward with the new MKZ. Value has been a strong point for Lincoln in recent years – compare any Lincoln model to the similar models from Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes, Audi, etc, and the Lincoln comes in many thousands less with the same options.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Lincoln suffers from a lack of a very high priced vehicle ($90,000+). If they make one people will buy it, because they can.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    A luxury (or premium) buyer needs a car, it’s marketing and it’s image to support confidence. Confidence that there was no better car for their needs. Note that I didn’t say “for the money” at the end of that sentence. Linclon people need to think about what they need to do on brand, product and dealer experiences to have a buyer of a Lincoln not need to even be asked by people in Miami, New York, LA, Chicago why he/she bought a Lincoln. First step will be if the owner can answer (ideally – “because it’s a great car, the best”), but the real finish line is when the question isn’t even asked because it is just known.

    That is $10B/10years from today IF all goes right for Lincoln.

  • avatar

    You guys, here’s the testimonial from a REAL “Gen Y” dude, not one second-guessing on forums:
    http://reallifecomics.com/archive/080703.html

    ALAN EXTRA (Salesman): The Zephyr? Oh, you wouldn’t be interested in that.
    GREG DEAN: Nice Lucious Fox reference. Seriously though… About the car.
    ALAN: No, I mean it. It’s a LINCOLN. You’ve got a good 30 years before you can drive a Lincoln.
    GREG: But… It looks so comfortable…
    ALAN: Comfort like that can’t be bought. It has to be EARNED.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    The car in the pic looks very attractive. Any chance we’ll see it in showrooms?

    I wonder about the premise of the article. Is there any real evidence that the typical Escalade buyer has been influenced by rappers or hip-hop artists?

    As I look around the building at the people buying BMWs and Mercedes, I don’t think they look quite like the rap music type.

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    The reskinned MKZ is a joke. The styling is nothing but awkward. And Ford is highlighting such things as a gimmicky moon roof that moves the entire roof to create an opening that only covers the front seats (but ruins your rearward visability) and gimmicky service bay smart phone garbage.

    Ford just does not have an interest or the ability to turn Lincoln around. $1 billion over seven models is a joke. That amount of money may be enough for ONE of Lincoln’s hopeless rebadges…but not the entire line.

    And why would ANYONE buy the MKFusion when they can buy the REAL Fusion, which is a better looking and equally equipped appliance, for far less money?

    As it sits, Lincoln will continue to be a trim level on a lowly Ford and nothing more. And gimmicky moonroofs or smart phone apps are not going to change that.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Don’t be fooled by the glass sunroofs, plastic chrome butterfly grill and “exclusive” corporate V6. Lincoln has been for 40 years and will continue to be a fancy Ford. Even so, Lincoln is already selling 80K vehicles a year with that strategy. Lincoln could easily be selling a respectable 150K a year if Ford decides to add a Lincoln Escape and a Lincoln Explorer. If those two vehicles are not part of the “7 new or refreshed vehicles by 2014″ then Lincoln will be nixed by 2020. Mark my words. There are a lot of Mercury parallels here — lots of product promised, never delivered, and then cancellation.

  • avatar

    “the Saab 900s and Volkswagen Jettas pushed by Q-Tip and Biggie”

    It’s amazing the cars that rappers used to be seen in. Wu Tang’s line “rollin’ in MPVs, every week we make forty Gs” (in a song named “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” no less) really emphasizes the post-99 shift towards automotive vulgarity you identify.

    Fascinatingly, the only recent pop culture touchstone for Lincoln that I can think of also dates back to 1999. When Beck released “Midnight Vultures” that year, I remember an profile of him (in Rolling Stone, as I recall) in which he revealed that he drove around LA in a black Towncar. To the best of my memory, he said something along the lines of “I just couldn’t bring myself to drive a new Lexus or whatever like everyone else.”

    Interesting piece.

  • avatar
    tbhride

    Right on the money with the Fusion being the biggest potential stumbling block for the MKZ. Would you rather have a car that looks kinda like an Aston, or spend more money for a car that resembles a cat licking up a saucer of milk? Unless that kitty has some really compelling exclusive features its a bit of a no brainer.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    I’m sure most gen-why buyers don’t even remember Lincoln when making a list of dealers to hit when buying a new car, even if they’re looking for a big luxury vehicle. Lincoln just isn’t relevant. The gen-y-ers who even remember them only remember them as “that car granddad drove”

    Cadillac, on the other hand, is it least capturing imagination. Escalades for the bling-seeking, and (dreams of) CTS-V for the gear-headed. If I ever were to be in the market for a luxury sedan, I could easily see myself in a CTS-something-or-other.

    Not sure if Lincoln can copy that or not.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    Hasn’t Ford said kinda sorta said they want to emulate Acura’s success?

    Lincoln 4 door coupe versions of the Focus and the Mustang might have drummed up some youthful interest.

    Chrysler 300 outsells the entire Lincoln lineup, if the 300 and Grand Cherokee were on front wheel drive platforms, Chrysler would be out of business.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      The problem I see with Lincoln, especially if compared to the difference between a Camry and a Lexus is steps of refinement. A Lexus may well be a Camry underneath, but the refinement level is a cut above and the perception makes all the difference, something Lincoln compared to Ford just does not have.

      Cadillac, on the other hand, does have that perception, and GM has made it different enough that it’s not just a Chevy underneath.

      All this being said, of course, does nothing for me, as I’m not a luxury car fan. All I want is a nice, comfortable sedan, preferably a Chevy like I own. My next car? I have no idea. A lot depends how long I need to make my current long commute. Next year when I turn 62, who knows?

    • 0 avatar

      “Emulate Acura’s success”

      …would’ve been accurate 15-10 years ago, but not so much recently.

  • avatar
    Madroc

    Since everyone else seems to have their own ideas about how to save the brand…

    It seems to me that a low-risk way to reinvigorate the brand and the image is by using the Lincoln marque as a way to import international-market cars, sort of like Merkur in the 80s. Slapping Acura badges onto world-market Hondas not sold in the US worked well enough, at least for a while.

    Lincoln has to offer something you can’t get in a Ford, in much the same way that the Buick Regal or Caddy CTS offer something you can’t get in a loaded Chevy. Bring over the proverbial RWD diesel wagon with a stick and see what happens. If that works, reincarnate the LS and only then spend the cash to develop a proper flagship. A more elegant Fusion does not a premium brand make.

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      It’s a nice thought, but under the current plans, there aren’t going to be very many international-market cars not sold here under a Ford badge — and the few that aren’t are mostly small cars, hatchbacks, and trucks.

      The only real exception would be the Australian Falcon; hopefully that will be a motivator for a new global RWD platform in the next few years.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    Ford should have kept Jaguar. Sure Lincoln has a rich history in the states but eventually Ford will wan to take Lincoln global. Jaguar has brand cachet both within the U.S. but more importantly in global markets.

    The current Jaguars (XF,XK,XJ) we’re designed under Ford’s watch. They’re good looking cars, offer great performance, and have that brand snobbery thing…if that’s what you’re looking for.

    So Ford will spend a ton of money in an attempt to revive Lincoln when they had Jaguar ready to pounce.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Who says Gen Y is a group Lincoln necessarily WANTS to target right now? Seems to me they might be smarter to chase after baby boomers with the products they have, and compete with Lexus and Acura, both of whom are vulnerable.

    Based on that, the lack of under-the-skin differentiation between the MKZ and a Fusion isn’t really all that critical – after all, for years now, Lexus has been selling lots of warmed-over Camrys as ES models, and quite successfully. and this car is a LOT better looking than an ES.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      They can try that, and that’s perfectly legitimate, but then they need a long-term plan for what to do later, when that generation is living in nursing homes or mausoleums and in any case is no longer buying cars. This is why every automaker tries to cater to the younger demographics at least a little bit: when your average customer age increases by ten years every ten years, your brand is heading towards a cliff.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Good points, but for now, I think the boomer market is a lot more viable for Lincoln. They don’t have the product to compete with a brand like BMW, but they sure can compete against Lexus, particularly with a pretty design like the MKZ.

        I also think the usual snapshot of growing-older buyers as we know them now will really apply to boomers. There are huge quality-of-life and buying habit differences between us and our parents. The youngest of us (me among them) has a good 30 years of car buying left to do, and while our parents might have been OK with buying a Town Car and driving it from age 60 to death, people in my generation won’t be. We’re a LOT more materialistic, and “gotta-have-it-now” driven than the last generation was.

        I think this market will be viable for a LONG time. And if Lincoln succeeds in rebuilding their business with this customer base, it’ll give them the resources it needs to develop cars that Gen Y (and Z) would like.

        But first they have to prove they’re a viable brand, and establish a rep for quality. The boomer strategy would enable them to do that.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The problem is that, when a brand becomes associated with the elderly, it becomes very difficult to sell to the generation directly behind that customer base. The last thing most people want is to be reminded of is that they are getting REALLY old. They certainly don’t want to be reminded of it when they get behind the wheel or look at their brand-new car in the driveway. A generation that has spent more on plastic surgery than any other in history isn’t about to go to the nursing home quietly.

      If selling to older customers is a viable long-term strategy, then Packard would still be in business. Packard’s association with an elderly customer base in the late 1940s and early 1950s really hurt them in the battle to regain market share from Cadillac.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        That was a portion of Packard’s trouble, but the disaster that was the Studebaker merger — at just the time they’d started to turn around the brand — was a bigger factor. Packard didn’t get its hands on the true Studebaker financials until after the merger was complete, and by then it was too late to do much.

        Had Packard ended up as part of American Motors — and it almost did, kind of — the story might have been different.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        What I’m talking about isn’t the truly elderly – I’m talking about baby boomers. The oldest of them are in their 60s, and the youngest are my age (late 40s). And advancing medical science means that being in that age group means something very different today than it did 20 years ago.

        Speaking for myself, if I were looking for a $40,000-or-so sedan, I’d look at the Lexus ES as the “old guy” car – this MKZ is damned stylish.

      • 0 avatar
        CA Guy

        Lincoln captured the best of both worlds with the 1961 Lincoln Continental. An instant classic with a contemporary design that became symbolic of the youthful Kennedy administration and caused Lincoln to become the aspirational car for the President’s generation; it also appealed to older luxury class buyers who wanted a stylish yet somewhat smaller, more maneuverable automobile.

        When my Dad, a WWII vet who loved JFK, purchased his aspirational vehicle before retiring, it was a new Lincoln Continental Mark V. When I, a baby boomer, recently made the same purchase, it was a new Infiniti G37 sedan. Lincoln long ago lost the luster of the 1960’s Continentals and 1970’s Marks and their current line of cars (who can even remember their model designations?), including the lamentable MKZ/Fusion, held absolutely no appeal for me. Older people do not necessary want to own a car associated with the “elderly” either, especially when there are cars like the Infiniti that appeal to a broad spectrum of buyers and have rear wheel drive, great power and handling, a solid premium identity, and separate dealer networks.

  • avatar
    alan996

    Well, Raylan Givens does drive a Town Car, that’s good enough for me….

  • avatar
    sckid213

    I’m 28 and recently bought a Cadillac CTS. Did not for one second consider a Lincoln when looking for a car, and I’m familiar with the brand (learned to drive on my dad’s ’98 Town Car — longer than a Suburban FYI). I find the Ford versions all look better than the Lincolns and can be optioned up to Lincoln levels, so there’s nothing compelling about the brand. That continues with this latest MKZ. I really think Ford’s corporate culture is just not capable of supporting a world-class luxury marque, period.

    BTW I also did not consider Acura, a brand which will soon find itself in a similar situation if the ILX and new RDX don’t take off. Have had several friends coming out of Gen 3 TL’s and moving on to other brands because they find the current line-up unattractive and overpriced.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I never saw Lincolns as Gen Y cars, from what I know we want Focus’s, Fusions’a, Flex’s, Flubber, and Fiestas’s.

    I just want more mature styling.

  • avatar
    50merc

    All that nostalgia for the ’61 Lincoln! So why not make them again? That is, make a luxury car that has true luxury attributes: a rectangular instead of ovoid shape, a tall greenhouse, easy entry and exit, spaciousness inside with throne-like seating, and understated elegance.

    Oh, wait–I just described a Flex, except with lots more leather (navy or dark wine), lavish soundproofing, and a conventional trunk. Ford would conquer the limousine/livery market. Especially if it doesn’t allow any designer under 40 to work on the project.

  • avatar
    hifi

    Whether you are talking about hi-end electronics, timepieces or cars, there are things that luxury brands must posses. 1) Amazing Products that exude great design and detail 2) Quality Materials 3) Great Service. 4) Be a great storyteller leveraging core values and history 5) Consistent, steady improvement with the occasional breakthrough.

    Lincoln hasn’t made a car that has any of these qualities in nearly fifty years. I’m not sure this MKZ is the breakthrough they need. I tend to think that Lincoln should behave like a startup and get really aggressive. Seriously, it’s time.

  • avatar

    Evident from this thread that Cadillac’s last 5 years were successful. Many of us can identify with the brand, whereas Lincoln is still a big “meh”.

    Contrasting the two, (most) Caddies are actually different cars than any other GM product. The CTS unique, offering stuff I can’t get from any other division. Want 4 doors and kickass? CTS-V only.

    Lincolns are all just Fords with _______. Like someone else above, I can never remember the Lincolns by name, only by which Ford they’re based on.

    Speaking of which, increasingly impressive (and expensive) Fords are putting the squeeze on Lincoln from below, but they seem incapable of migrating upward in the food chain. For the brand to have relevance, Fords need to get less good or Lincolns need to take several steps upward.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    “Hey B&B. Why did the LS fail? It seemed like the perfect foil for the E class.”

    V6 underwhelmed, and the transmission problems. The car was a good looking ride but missed the mark on performance/price and reliability issues doomed it.

  • avatar
    siuol11.2

    I sigh for the stupidity of my generation (well technically the generation before me, but who’s counting).

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Lincoln should just rename the last letter of all there cars.
    The MKS should really be the MKT where T is for Taurus
    The MKZ should really be the MKF where F is for Fusion
    The MKX should really be the MKE where E is for Edge
    Last but not least the MKT should be the MKM where M is for mistake

  • avatar
    ghandouram

    Lincoln is the sick man of luxury brands…sad but true. The essence of the problem is that Ford bean counters are trying to run a luxury brand with a common cars maker mentality. I look at the Lincoln MKZ and see the Cadillac Cimarron fiasco all over again! Lincoln needs to be a brash, in your face LUXURY brand…not an outlet of spruced up Flexes, Fusions ans Tauruses! All Lincoln cars lack presence on the showroom floor. Something they had had with the Town Car.if I were given free reign to to run Lincoln, I would temporarily shut down, do something about the hideous front end styling , and eliminate the cheap looking long front overhangs . Sleek ,unique styling to recapture the presence of ,say, the 1963 Continintal…bring back the old , established nameplates…enough of the MK blah blah blah.
    Sorry if this will offend anyone….but I’m not a diplomat, not when it comes to one of my favorite nameplates.
    Thank you very much.


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