By on April 4, 2012

“Imagine,” Ford’s marketing wunderkind Jim Farley suggested, “if your service advisor knew your name? If he knew your preferences? What you wanted?” Well, as a former owner of two Phaetons, I don’t need to imagine that. Everybody in VW service at my local dealer knew my name, my wife’s name, our weekend plans, and which one of the dealership’s loaners I liked best (“Blackie”, a Passat 2.0T). That’s what happens when you sell cars that require frequent servicing and have nobody on staff in the entire country who can perform said servicing in even a marginally competent fashion.

Farley, of course, wasn’t talking about 5400-pound German crapwagons. He was talking about treating Lincoln buyers to the finest dealership experience available.

The most radical concept Farley showed the crowd was the idea of a “personal shopper” who could be contacted online and who would help the buyer shop the competition as well as shop Lincoln. Don’t know which Lexus is right for you? Why not let someone from Lincoln tell you? While it sounds absolutely hare-brained, in the Keeping Up With The Kardashians era, the idea of access to personal shopping help may actually bring some intenders Lincoln’s way. Luxury for the middle class: it’s a time-honored winning formula.

The production-spec MKZ which wandered into the middle of Farley’s presentation is actually a pretty good example of that philosophy. It doesn’t look anything like the Fusion with which it shares its bones, and it has a very solid three-level powertrain selection that, frankly, just points up how crappy GM’s Impala lineup is. There’s a 237-horsepower EcoBoost four, the very popular hybrid drivetrain complete with long-distance electric-only capability, and the 3.7L Duratec putting out 300 horsepower. The Duratec is the fastest but least interesting of the three, of course.

Interior designer Soo Kang sat with our hairdresser-turned-journalist Julie Hyde for a moment to explain her ideas behind the interior. She arrived in the United States as a working concert harpist and continues to let music direct her endeavors. Her favorite part of the MKZ’s interior is the pushbutton shifter that permitted her to create an uninterrupted horizontal sweep line in the console. “Every corner of the car,” she stated, “should be spacious and serene.”

Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole presentation was the artist who created multiple “sand drawings” in time with a perfectly coordinated jazz-fusion sextet, complete with gorgeous violinist. The performance piece was clearly painstakingly conceived and thoroughly rehearsed. It went off without a hitch. Unfortunately for Jim Farley, what stands between him and his perfect performance — a nationwide array of disgruntled, financially strapped Lincoln dealers — may be too high a bar to clear.

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56 Comments on “New York Auto Show: New MKZ, and Lincoln’s Heartbreakingly Optimistic Vision Of The Future...”


  • avatar
    geeber

    I’m glad that the Lincoln has a solid powertrain team, but I don’t believe that Ford wants any of the brand’s offerings compared to a Chevrolet.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    “Imagine,” Ford’s marketing wunderkind Jim Farley suggested, “if your service advisor knew your name? If he knew your preferences? What you wanted?”

    You used to sell cars, right?
    How many potential customers ever came up to you while looking at a car, and wanted to know how badass your service dept was?

    The luxury marques are getting eaten alive by well-optioned Camry’s, so they’re inventing rubbish luxury points to make customers feel special. In Lincoln’s case “Nothing special” could be a tagline for their entire lineup. They need to lock their designers in a room with 1964 Continental. Then tell them to start over, and if they touch the Ford parts bins, they’re fired.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      That might work real well for people who were old enough in 1964 to care about the Continental, but hopefully Lincoln is developing cars for people who will buy them today, and more importantly, in the future.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The “suicide door” Lincolns shared a cowl, windshield and other key parts with contemporary Thunderbirds (until the Thunderbird switched to body-on-frame construction for 1967). The relationship is especially evident in the grille and headlights of the 1961 Thunderbird and Continental.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      A segment of customers care very much about the service experience and being made to feel special. I’ve had many customers who have told me the reason they have returned to buy at my dealership is because they really like the service writer they see every time they come in for an oil change as well as many who have come in because they are so pissed off at the service department at the dealership one county south. That they are willing to drive past the dealership nearest to them not only to buy but to get their routine maintenance done says a lot about how much it matters to them.

      Many Ford/Lincoln dealers have the ‘Quicklane’ service area now, which offers extended operation hours plus oil change/tire rotation deals that are usually only four or five bucks more than Wal-Mart. Lincoln owners also get a complimentary hand wash/interior clean when they come in.

      People like being remembered and like feeling like they matter to the businesses they patronize. I stop by a local taqueria once or twice a week not only because the food is good but because the girl behind the counter knows my order as soon as I walk through the door.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    Looking at the front, I have to wonder which one of Top Cat’s pals this reminds me of…….but, the interior looks nice.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    Who cares if a service advisor knows my name and the color underwear I’m wearing that day? Just do the service competently, get me out of there quickly, have a WIFI connection with lots of free food and beverage and I’m in second heaven.

    • 0 avatar
      Feds

      My local Mazda dealer has a massage chair that plays new-age music, and a toaster oven that spits out a fresh batch of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies every 25 minutes, and two large-breasted incredibly friendly “service advisers”.

      And while I’m getting my calves and glutes roboticly kneaded, eating a warm soft cookie, and watching the adviser lean unnecessarily over the counter to explain a charge to a customer all I can think is: “how much less would my service bill be if I were sitting in a folding chair eating vending machine peanuts and watching a sweaty gorilla hammer the 3rd set of wheel bearings in to the Protege5?”

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      I don’t even want to be in the building. Do what you’re supposed to do competently. Be timely and make sure you have plenty of loaners because I’m not waiting.

      As for looking at breasts, that’s great and all, but I’d much rather touch, which is why again I’ll need a loaner.

      • 0 avatar
        jandrews

        Actually let a dealer service department work on my vehicle?

        That’s a novel idea. The only way they’re touching my stuff is for warranty work.

        I can handle the vast majority of my automotive work myself. In the event I need something done I don’t have equipment readily available for (alignment, tire balancing, transmission rebuild), that’s what trusted independent mechanics and service centers are for.

        I don’t like other people working on my vehicles. That’s why they’re still running so well at age.

  • avatar
    86er

    Is Lincoln mortally wounded, or is it but a flesh wound?

    • 0 avatar
      86SN2001

      Look at the results of all the hype. A car that is really only slightly better than the Fusion for substantially more money.

      Lincoln is dying, right before our eyes.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      “Bring out your dead! (wham) Bring out your dead! (wham) Bring out your dead! (cat growls)”

      “I’m not dead yet…I feel much better now…I don’t want to go on the cart…”

      • 0 avatar
        onthercks07

        hahahaha – awesome!

      • 0 avatar
        CA Guy

        “Interior designer Soo Kang,,,,arrived in the United States as a working concert harpist and continues to let music direct her endeavors. Her favorite part of the MKZ’s interior is the pushbutton shifter that permitted her to create an uninterrupted horizontal sweep line in the console. “Every corner of the car,” she stated, “should be spacious and serene.”

        Ah, now we know. Might as well put the pushbutton shift controls in the steering wheel as in the debut Edsel and really feel the aura of death surrounding the Lincoln nameplate.

  • avatar
    bills79jeep

    “Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole presentation was the artist who created multiple “sand drawings” in time with a perfectly coordinated jazz-fusion sextet, complete with gorgeous violinist.”

    This is joke right?

  • avatar
    kevnsd

    Jack great shots of the MKZ. Looks like a nice enough car… although I’d be hard pressed to say it was a Lincoln if the badges were taken off. BTW I think the violinist digs you too!

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    The problem with the MKFusion…..is that it’s not substantially better than the actual Fusion. The Fusion, on the whole, looks far better….like it was designed by people that actually talked to each other.

    Frankly, this MKZ or whatever randomly picked letter this car is, is still the same old recipe….this is a trim level on a Fusion. A dash of silver paint here, a different gimmick there.

    The only thing clear after seeing this mediocre effort is that Lincoln is in deep trouble. I would be all kinds of angry if I were a Lincoln dealer and this is what all the hype was about.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      It’s a lot more than a trim level of the Fusion.

      The exterior styling is completely different, the quality of interior materials will be of a higher grade, the V6 is unique to the Lincoln, the active suspension is unique to the Lincoln (and I believe unique to the class, though the CTS may be available with Magnaride), and certain electronic options like the lane keeping system and active noise cancellation will be unique to the Lincoln.

      The biggest difference, and the one I’m surprised isn’t getting more press, is the Lincoln Drive Control. Having a system that controls the steering response and suspension constantly and that can alternate between traditional luxury isolation to sports-car firm and controlled within 1/50th of a second based on driver steering input and sensor observed road conditions will completely change the nature of how the MKZ rides and handles vs the Fusion.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    “The most radical concept Farley showed the crowd was the idea of a “personal shopper” who could be contacted online and who would help the buyer shop the competition as well as shop Lincoln. Don’t know which Lexus is right for you? Why not let someone from Lincoln tell you? While it sounds absolutely hare-brained, in the Keeping Up With The Kardashians era, the idea of access to personal shopping help may actually bring some intenders Lincoln’s way. Luxury for the middle class: it’s a time-honored winning formula.”

    Well, Lincoln does need a Miracle on 34th St. Or is that 8-Mile?

    John

  • avatar
    ajla

    “…it has a very solid three-level powertrain selection that, frankly, just points up how crappy GM’s Impala lineup is.”

    Lincoln: Better engine tiers than a Chevrolet Impala!

    Too bad for Lincoln that Chevy is GM’s lowest level brand and it isn’t 1947 anymore so it will have to compete with more than just GM.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    So, instead of aiming for a Don Draper, Lincoln is hoping to save their hide by appealing to a Meg Ryan.

    They’re dead.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Damn thats a gorgeous interior. Sorry haters, the MKZ is sensuous. I’d be afraid if I were Buick and Acira, because that’s the competition when I see this Lincoln.

    Sold.

    • 0 avatar
      86SN2001

      Buick has nothing to worry about. A Fusion with some silver paint is still a Fusion.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        And an Impala with silver paint is still an Impala. An Insignia with silver paint is still an Insignia.
        What Buick do you propose is superior to the MKZ?

      • 0 avatar
        M.S. Smith

        Were you just born?

        Seriously. I’d think you would have heard of Lexus by now. Guess not.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I don’t know how Buick is doing in China, but aren’t their sales off about 17% from last year in the US? They probably don’t need to worry about Lincoln, but they also survive in the US for reasons that don’t have much to do with making money by selling cars.

  • avatar
    unseensightz

    Isn’t the MKZ supposed to be the midsize Lincoln sedan?(I thought the MKS was the fullsize Lincoln?) The Cadillac CTS would be the proper direct competitor from GM, now that the ATS has arrived to fill in the compact range and the XTS fullsize range, rather than a full size Chevy sedan. I think you’re comparing apples to strawberries here in regards to engines.

    And if you wanted to compare the MKZ to a fullsize GM sedan, the XTS would be the one to choose, NOT the Impala.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    “pushbutton shifter” well it’s about time 2013 caught up with a 50s Chrysler. Considering the average driver uses 3 positions I’m surprised it took us this long to eliminate the shifter again. Frees up more space for cup holders :-)

    But like most people are suggesting, having Lincoln be a trim level of ford car is a recipe for death.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Personal shopper ?!? Huh ?? Lincoln is not only dead, but deserves a Darwin award for that one.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Did Lincoln steal an Ecotec engine from Chevy and improve it? I assume you meant EcoBoost………….

  • avatar
    SilverHawk

    Maybe I’m getting a clearer picture of where Ford is going, but the approach they’ve taken, creates more questions than answers. By starting with the model that is currently their entry vehicle, they leave us wondering what level of technology they plan to reach in their top models. Creating a top model, clearly showing us where they are going, would create a template for the rest of the line, and help to define the Lincoln brand in the eyes of consumers. This first attempt at redefinition could end up lost in a showroom filled with more expensive vehicles, carrying the same brand name, but featuring numerous styling treatments, all different from this entry level vehicle. Brand clarity is important for a successful marketing strategy, and as it stands now, Lincoln won’t have that for some time to come.

  • avatar
    onthercks07

    Let’s play a name game as to which car most of us would choose:

    Lincoln MKZ versus

    a) BMW 3-series
    b) Audi A4
    c) Infiniti G37
    d) Acura TL
    e) Lexus IS250/350
    f) Cadillac ATS
    g) Volvo S60
    h) Nissan Maxima
    i) Buick Lacrosse

    Prediction? Most of wouldn’t choose the MKZ over more than two of these choices.

    Next prediction? Lincoln and Buick are gone in 7 years (or less)

    • 0 avatar
      Feds

      Honestly?

      Audi
      Infinity
      Bmw
      Lincoln

      Of course, no one buys their #4 choice, but I’m also 32. I’ll only like Lincoln more as I get older (according to statistics).

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    While Farley is describing the BMW ownership experience, I don’t think that being on a first name basis with half a dozen service people is the allure that gets signatures on lease papers. It certainly didn’t keep me in the fold. Something moves BMWs though, and most of them have gimmicky shifters that aren’t a fraction as good as what was considered standard practice for decades. I’m not sure this featureless and cheap looking dashboard is the answer, but maybe Lincoln can make up for it by making PRNDL an i-phone app with voice recognition.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Nothing about this car stands out. First impressions are important and nothing about this car screamed “wow” to me in any way. The Cadillac XTS, Dodge Charger and even Chrysler 300 have a certain umph and identity that this car simply doesn’t have. And that damn baleen whale grill won’t go away. Please!!! It’s not growing on me, get rid of it already!

  • avatar
    ntesla

    I saw the prototype at the Architectural Digest Show the week before. It was really striking and was gathering an approving crowd. I was surprised how nice it was and brought friends one to look too. I even took a picture of it which I compared to the production unit shown here. I can’t say how and where, but they look different. Maybe the wheel arches are an inch smaller…maybe the grill more upright but they look different. Maybe it’s just the angle.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      There was a concept version shown at Detroit. They’re very similar, but the production car has door handles and useful mirrors, and is probably more upright.

  • avatar
    SV

    The first press shots left me distinctly underwhelmed, but seeing live photos gives me a different impression. Seriously, I can’t remember the last car that looked this much better in live shots. I suspect that this car could just be very color-specific; red suits it well, but silver may not be as appealing.

    Overall, though, I like it. The rear-3/4 view is great, while the new grille looks 100x better than before. Like the concept, though, the front end looks a bit pinched, something that’s less prominent but still noticeable in live pictures.

    The interior appears to be excellent, though I wish they didn’t carryover the Fusion’s door handles. On the whole, however, it’s much more appealing than the new ES’s mess of a dashboard.

    I don’t know if this will save Lincoln, but I’d expect sales to jump quite a bit over the outgoing car (and for what it’s worth the ES and MKZ haven’t actually been too far apart in sales lately). The improvement from the old MKZ to the new one is hard to fathom.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    “Imagine,” Ford’s marketing wunderkind Jim Farley suggested, “if your service advisor knew your name? If he knew your preferences? What you wanted?”

    Well, if he knew my preferences, he’d know I’d want him to leave me the heck alone. It’s bad enough that I get endless emails, surveys and voicemails every time I set foot in the dealership of any manufacturer. I can only imagine how in my face they would be if Lincoln implements this sort of nonsense.

    And does Lincoln have ANY stand alone dealerships? Or do I still have to wade through acres of F-150s, dodge grease ball salesmen and wait in a dingy, noisy waiting room next to the crass mother of three brats while she gets a new transmission in her Freestar. That was fine when I had my Mustang, but not in an supposedly-exclusive Lincoln.

    Hyundai has the right idea with the Equus, where somebody from the service department picks the car up from your house, so you never have to set foot in the dealership again. My Volkswagen dealer does this too.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Lincoln has set guidelines for dealers for amenities that service departments need to offer. For combined dealerships it won’t be a matter of the Ford side bringing down the Lincoln side to a lower level, but rather the Lincoln side elevating the Ford side to a higher standard.

      I know in our service department we remodeled the waiting room to have more natural light, divided it to contain a general area with LCD tvs, a walled off quiet area with comfortable couches and cushy chairs, and another walled off ‘business center’ area with several new desktop computers plus a color laser printer, scanner, and fax machine. All of it has Wi-Fi and yes, there are fresh baked cookies and good coffee. There are several shuttles that will drop off and pick up anyone who wants to go somewhere else, and Lincoln owners get complimentary Lincoln loaner vehicles for any extended visits if they like.

  • avatar
    SevilleSlantback

    Lincoln can only afford one more decade of mediocre products like this, and after that Ford won’t be able to justify keeping Lincoln around. The new MKZ is so utterly uninspiring in every way possible that it makes even Acura’s homely new flagship seem engaging in comparison. The rear end is a bad imitation of Dodge without the passion, the sides are a bad imitation of the XTS without the passion, and the grille is just plain awful. The powertrains don’t impress me one bit, if anything they just seem to be barely catching up with the current outgoing powerplants of other cars.

    It’s as if Ford doesn’t want Lincoln to succeed at all, and at this point Buick is running circles around it let alone Cadillac. GM was bankrupt and even worse off than Ford a few years ago; Caddy was almost as bad as Lincoln is now. What’s the difference? GM actually tried and invested money to compete with the world’s best and create memorable cars. I still want the return of the V8 Cadillac, but at least that brand’s future looks bright. Right now, Lincoln’s does not and it’s Ford’s own fault.

    It’s not like Lincoln hasn’t made memorable vehicles…..
    http://www.mcsmk8.com/79-MARKV/79-MARKV.HTM

    Take that car, reduce the size and update the looks Mustang style, put in the 5.0 from the Boss 302 and the Ecoboost, and actually make the car well. Call it the Mark IX, and sell it for 50-60 grand. There’s your flagship, and a good place to start. Work down from there, and maybe Lincoln will be saved. Put out uninspired crap like the MKZ, and Lincoln will be gone in a decade.

  • avatar
    donatolla

    That first paragraph *exactly* described my experience with VW as well. I really wish they didn’t know my name so well, and that the courtesy driver couldn’t drive me home without directions (related story: I shared a ride home with a couple who just bought a Tiguan…they wanted to know reliable my car was. I only had to point out that the courtesy driver had driven me home without any directions. I could see the disappointment). I traded that car for a TSX, and can happily say my dealer has no idea who I am.

    Lincoln needs to build good, reliable cars that people actually want to buy, and not worry so much about the service experience.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Nice looking interior, exterior is so so not real good looking not real bad looking might be semi distinctive. Seems like the swoopy front end conflicts with the rectangular slabsided side view and the grill is somehow reminiscent of mid 80′s GM midsize Oldsmobiles. Overall I think the new Fusion has better exterior styling but I don’t think except for the front end the Fusion is very distinctive either. I like the new Fusion’s front end & grill much more than this Lincoln’s. The Fusion is a bit like an Aston Martin whereas this grill screams aftermarket to me. Dare I say J. C. Whitney?

    I think Lincoln needs a much stronger offering than this to get buyers seriously interested in the brand. I still say Lincoln is a dead brand walking. Obviously Ford is trying everything they can think of with Farley’s comments about the service advisor (when the manufacturer starts talking about something besides the car itself that’s usually a dead giveaway the car isn’t strong enough on its own) maybe they ought to try some kickass dropdead gorgeous styling. Memo to Ford: that still sells luxury cars.

    I’m guessing the MKZ styling started out as the Fusion instead of a clean piece of paper. Only so much you can do under those circumstances. Depending on the lease pricing I may consider it for the interior which is all any of us can see when driving. What they really needed to do was style the sides distinctively as they did the rear and front (doing something other than what they did for a grill). I see zero styling in the side sheet metal.

  • avatar
    PJ McCombs

    Too bad about the Joan Rivers front fascia, because the interior really is a knockout.

    As for customer service, what Farley is describing sounds like gimmickry. ‘Exceptional service’ is staff who do their jobs highly competently, efficiently, and with minimal intrusion on your schedule, every time. But that requires investing in said staff, which would be a lot more work.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    One interest styling element that I didn’t notice until I’d seen the photos a few times is the white/cream colored posts/mirror-bottoms. I don’t recall anyone doing that before, and I’m not sure why, it looks great.

    The interior shot shows a standard speedometer with the two typical MyLincoln Touch LCDs on either side. From what Autoblog was reporting the whole gauge cluster is supposedly going to be one big LCD, ala Jaguar or Land Rover. I’m wondering if this was a pre-production model made before that change had been implemented, or, since the car in the photos seems to have the Hybrid badge, if the hybrids will just carryover the standard instrument cluster that’s on the current MKZ hybrid.


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