Lincoln Going Global?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
lincoln going global

Having divested much of its premium brand portfolio (Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin), Ford is missing out on luxury sales in growth markets like China. So it comes as no surprise that Automotive News [sub] would ask Ford President of the Americas Mark “ MKF” Fields whether Ford’s Lincoln brand could go global. Fields’ reply?

Potentially, but we are focusing Lincoln here in North America for right now. We don’t have any plans at this point to take it global. That doesn’t mean in the future we wouldn’t look at that, but it’s very important for us to focus on North America.

The question (and its distinct non-answer) open an uncomfortable can of worms for Ford. Thus far, Alan Mulally’s regime has focused on building up the Ford brand as a global player, largely relegating its remaining luxury divisions to rebadge-based irrelevance. As the Ford brand starts to gain its footing with truly global products, the FoMoCo will eventually have to start figuring out a strategy for Lincoln and Mercury.

For Mercury, death is the only real option. Other than possibly keeping it as a dedicated hybrid or EV brand, there’s nowhere to go with the Jill Wagner brand but the grave. Besides stealing focus from Lincoln and gaining a tiny bit of incremental profit, Mercury has little to no role to play in Ford’s future. Coming to terms with this reality is the first step to figuring out Ford’s luxury brand strategy.

From there, Lincoln will require immense investment to recreate it as a luxury brand of global relevance. It’s re-workings of Ford products are of the latter day GM school: just restyled enough to prevent widespread accusations of cynical rebadging. Needless to say, this will not be enough to generate enthusiasm among American luxury buyers (Lincoln’s US sales fell nearly 23 percent last year to their lowest level since 1981), let alone China’s nouveau riche who have no history with the brand. Especially with products like Ford’s Taurus SHO intruding on its premium positioning and price point.

Unfortunately, Ford’s colossal debt won’t allow for much in the way of unique Lincoln product development. The pre-requisite of winding down the Mercury brand won’t be cheap either. Still, with the Premier Auto Group now defunct, it’s getting to be about time for Ford to turn towards its luxury strategy and figure out how to make the most out of a tough situation. One thing is for certain: with Lincoln and Mercury withering on the vine to vary extents, inaction on this front is not an option.

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  • Vkt2009 Vkt2009 on Jan 15, 2010

    Have any of you actually sat in, rode, or driven the new Lincolns? The quality of craftsmanship (especially inside the cabin) have caught up with BMW, Lexus, and Infiniti. My wife was looking to replace her Lexus RX, and we happened to stop by the Lincoln dealer. She wanted to look at the MKX, but the MKT caught her eye. Yes the front end is different, but much better looking in real life. The pictures don't do it justice. Quality of the interior was easily on par with the Lexus and actually quieter during our test drive. And the engine. Damn, that Ecoboost lives up to the rave reviews it gets online. Stomping on the gas to pass threw us back into our seats. Something you never get with any of the Lexus crossovers. And had every electronic gadget, that actually worked well, that a gadget guy would want. The Ford Sync is far and away better than the BMW iDrive. The auto-parallel parking is so much more simple and accurate than in the Lexus I test drove a few weeks ago. Needless to say, we have a new MKT in our garage. All our friends have commented on how nice the MKT looks (which amazes me due to the griping you see on the internet), but they all question us on buying a Lincoln. (They all have MBs, BMWs, Toyotas, Lexus). All it takes is to hand them the key fob, let them take a quick 5-10 test drive, and they are amazed at how good the interior quality is and how fun it is to drive. Some are going to check out the Lincoln dealer when the time arrives for a new car. Would I trade in my M3 for a MKS? Hell no. But if Lincoln came up with a 2 door sports coupe that competed with it, I'd at least take a look and take it for a test drive, whereas in the past, I would have driven right by the Lincoln dealership. Is Lincoln ready for the global market? No. Or should I say, not yet. But they are a hell of a lot closer than many of you armchair/internet critics think.

    • Len_A Len_A on Jan 15, 2010

      Way to go!! Great crossover choice - my wife also thinks their gorgeous. EcoBoost and Sync are far ahead of anything the luxury import brands have, and you're 100% spot on, regarding the interior quality. Enjoy your purchase!!

  • Accs Accs on Feb 08, 2010

    Hmmm I was reading a bit ago about the redo front clip on the MKX. Then I heard about the redo on the EDGE. Stupid me.. actually thought that theyd atually have a design that sets them apart. Apparently all that does.. is that shit eating grill in the front for Linc, and that stupid MAW on the Edge. And... Its obvious that ya dont buy a Lex for power.. as noted by the muted accelerator pedal. Id like to point out.. It takes a lot more than a re-glaze of what Ford already produces for a 5-10g markup for the stuff to be considered a success. NTM the very reasons you purchased it.. are the exact opposite reasons.. I'd stay far away from it.. and its segment. Inaddition to stuff of this size is just as bad in size and weight and drive-ability as the body on frame stuff Navigator and its base brother Expedition EL And MKX = EDGE in comparison against RX MKT is only comparo with the Lambdas = ONE big ass / heavy ass damn vehicle. And you actually BOUGHT a vehicle with the parallel parking unit? Id also like to know.. what merit does the vehicle actually have besides its obese weight, its tech gadgets?

  • Arthur Dailey Any vehicle with a continental hump, even if vestigial, gets a thumbs up from me.
  • KOKing Actually a place called Sector111 in Temecula, CA was importing them for sale in the US starting around 2012. A friend had a shop right next door, and I recall seeing the very first one the owner imported for himself, and would bring it out to promote at various local events. Also shows this thing's been around for a while.
  • KevinB A $300 fine for me would be an "ouch". For someone else it may mean the electric bill doesn't get paid and there won't be enough gas to get to work.
  • Ajla I think a few of you guys need to try meditation or something.
  • SCE to AUX Historically, the Land Cruiser sold ~3000 units annually in the US for its last 15 years, so the answer is no.