By on April 18, 2012

Which cost more these days? Car or building?

 

I had a 2013 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec Sedan as my proverbial press fleet mule this past week.

The car gave me flashbacks. The quiet of the 5.0 Liter V8 engine reminded me of the first time my neighbor bought a brand new 1995 Lincoln Town Car. That car offered folks a whisper quiet ride, and enough space and luxury to make a Mercedes E-Class envious.

The dirty little secret of that time was that I enjoyed driving that Lincoln more than I did the last of the W124’s.

See, the miseries of commuting always took a huge bite out of my driving enjoyment. Instead of feeling the bumps and hearing the honks, it would have been nice to be cocooned in a big beautiful quiet world that the last of the good Lincolns offered.

The 2013 Hyundai Genesis sedan brought that world back to my daily grind. If only for a brief moment. So with that in mind… I wonder…

Should the nicest of Hyundais become Lincolns?

Now here me out. I am not tossing the Genesis coupe into the mix because I think that car’s character is as different from a classic Lincoln as Mercury is from Pluto.

Nor should the upcoming 2013 Hyundai Azera be thrown into the mix. I drove one quite recently, and the experience was a lot like an Avalon with tighter handling and nicer interior materials.

Nice it was. Upscale? It was not.

The Hyundai Genesis and the Hyundai Equus are the two targets for what I see as a Lincoln-ish future. Both of these models are headlong into the world of affordable big car  luxury that once made Lincoln a sought after brand.

You have a front grille that is vaguely reminiscent of a Lincoln. So much so in fact that Ford ended up hiring it’s creator as the new head of exterior Ford design in North America.

How’s that for flattery?

Then you have the fact that these vehicles are truly their own creatures. There is no platform sharing or cheap upscale nips and tucks of other downscale Hyundai models.  The Genesis and Equus were designed as flagships first and foremost.

That is what Lincoln desperately needs to do to keep the flagging brand afloat. Riffing Fusions and amortizing the parts bin will sure get Lincoln nowhere at this point.

There are a lot of other little things as well. Hyundai’s focus on price aggression is a good parallel to the age old ‘value proposition’ of owning American iron.

Just like Town Cars, Mark’s and Continentals, the big selling point of these two Hyundais is that you pay a lot less than the Europeans and Japanese competitors while getting just as many features and comfort. The interior may not be as opulent and some of the buttons and switches are more reminiscent of a $30,000 car than a $60,000 car. But the Genesis and Equus drive just as nice for a lot less money and with that, you get better reliability.

It’s hard to market a Hyundai that cost more than a Lexus or a Benz. Selling the Lincoln name may be a non-starter in the world of Mulally. But what if? What if Ford offered Lincoln to the Hyundai/Kia conglomerate?

Does it make sense? Should the Genesis and Equus enjoy a newfound heritage that is synonymous with luxury?

Perhaps these models could pick up names with a bit more cachet with the mature buyers who predominate the full-sized luxury segment. Personally, I still like the model names Continental and Town Car.

What do you think? Sense or nonsense?

 

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44 Comments on “Sense or Nonsense: Should Upscale Hyundais Become Lincolns?...”


  • avatar
    Fromes

    The Chrysler 300C is the car Lincoln should have made.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    Lincoln the brand?

    Short Answer: No.

    Long Answer: Hyundai needs to do something to differentiate its flagship models from its bread&butter models. Something akin to what Toyota did with Lexus in its inception during the late 80s-early 90s. Hyundai had the chance to do this by offering a Ford/Mercury/Lincoln set-up with all brands under one roof, later possibly spinning off a full luxury line dealership/brand, and failed to give the Genesis/Equus their own marque thus losing that initiative. Lincoln of old and the Genesis/Equus share many qualities, but I don’t think not-american will be a selling point to a Hyundai with the box-cross on the hood.

    On another note, ahev you seen the lease deals on these cars? They had an Equus in our local mall with the sticker reading 48 onths, 12k/year at $600/month. I’m paying $377 at 0% interest to own my wife’s Mazda3. Looking at that I feel like a sucker. What do their lease residuals look like?

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      Well, I will not be surprised if Hyu’s residuals are on par with Dodge Caravan or something. What I mean is that they have no financial sense as brand new purchase, but can be a great used buy. Debadge it and then nobody will even recognize it.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I’m assuming you guys are out west or something, but both the $377 and $600 figures seem like quite a bit for a Mazda and a Hyundai.
      I just hit the Lexus website for a point of comparison, and a 15k per year/48-month lease on an IS250 is as follows:

      Estimated Adjusted Gross Cap Cost $36,320
      Estimated Monthly Payment $586
      Total Due at Lease Signing $1,796

      If I’m going to pony up serious dough on a lease, that’s the sort of thing I’m going after.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Advertised lease prices never include tax/tags/fees, so figure at least another $50-$70 per month on that, and at that price there has to be some fine print about $5,000 cash or trade equity due at signing or some-such, otherwise Hyundai Financial has gone completely nuts of predicted residuals.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I have driven 4 Hyundais, either on test drives or as rentals, as follows:

      1) Hyundai Azera – Rental that I drove for many miles

      2) Hyundai Tuscon – The new one, that I test drove for about 10 minutes

      3) Hyundai Sonata – The new gen, that I test drove for about 15 minutes

      4) Hyundai Genesis – Rental that I drove for maybe one hundred miles, over the course of two days

      All but the Sonata left me unimpressed. The Sonata was the GLS with the standard motor, and felt tighter and better built than the Camry or Altima, with better interior materials, decent steering, and it had a nicely balanced ride. It was also relatively quiet.

      The new Tuscon was an unmitigated POS.

      The Azera was a literal joke. It was a 2008 model year. I had two passengers that can verify that the car pitched, bobbed and rolled so much, on flat freeways, that is was literally comical.

      The Genesis was a 2011 model year, and I thought that the ride was atrocious for anything daring to profess to be a sport-luxury sedan that could approach, let alone go head to head, with BMW, Audi, Mercedes or even Cadillac. On rough pavement, it actually felt as if there was a different suspension system on the front of the car versus the rear of the car, and that each end was responding to road imperfections within a time frame not even within the same calendar weak. On top of this, the ride was worse than the 2011 Sonata I drove all around (even on smooth roads).

      The new Sonata has been Hyundai’s best effort to date to get their suspension tuning up to par with competitors (although I have not driven or driven in an Equus).

      All Lincoln needs to do to survive is build a stylish, well put together car, with competitive interior materials, that’s reliable, and rides comfortably and quietly, and is competitively priced.

      They haven’t been able to accomplished all of these targets in the same vehicle in a long time.

      And speaking of Lexus, they’ve gone to shit, just like Acura, as far I am concerned. The Lexus LS430 was the last Lexus worthy of the badge. When Toyota tried to turn Lexus into a BMW competitor, the result was hard riding, cheaply trimmed, overpriced piles of shit like the IS250 and IS350, that gave all of the disadvantages of a BMW, while matching few BMW virtues.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Much of the issue of the ride in the pre-2012 Genesis sedan has to do with the crappy OEM Dunlops (commonly referred to as “Dunflops”); for the 2012 model year, Hyundai replaced the Dunlops with better OEM tires and further refined the suspension tuning so there really isn’t an issue with the non-R-Spec ride.

        The R-Spec has a stiffer ride and larger wheels so some may find it not to their liking but it is not as harsh riding as the Infiniti M56S.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      At most, Hyundai should just offer a sub-brand (with a separate showroom) within the same dealer network.

      Spinning of the “Genesis” as a full separate brand and dealer network would just add too much $$ to the MSRP and the Japanese luxury makes haven’t exactly been successful going up against Mercedes and BMW when they don’t have a huge pricing advantage.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    Interesting concept and I appreciate the out of box thinking, but I vote nonsense. I rented a V8 Genesis on a biz trip almost exactly a year ago and I walked away very unimpressed. That was concluded BEFORE it broke down (5,000 miles on the odo) and left me stranded in the middle of rural Georgia (zoinks! did I just hear a banjo?). My vote = aim higher.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    The fact that this headline even exists works toward the point that Lincoln should have been shuttered back at the same time as they were offing Mercury.

    When your luxury brand no longer compares favorably to the latest Hyundai, it’s time to give up.

  • avatar
    PlentyofCars

    Is that a mistake branding your flagship cars Hyundai?

    VW did something similar. Phaeton should have been a brand, not a VW model, especially in North America. If they really felt the need to relate it to anything, it could have been a scaled down Bentley, which in some ways it was.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      VW already had a flagship brand. It’s called Audi, and the A8 at the time shared not insignificant amount of parts with the A8.

      Just like for the B5 generation the Passat was basically a slightly stretched A4.

      • 0 avatar
        PlentyofCars

        Audi has always been aimed at BMW. Phaeton was more aimed at Mercedes.

        That said, calling it the Audi Phaeton would have been smarter than VW.

        It was old man Piech that insisted on trying to market an upscale Volkswagen. I never thought it would work in the North American market. I wonder if VW execs thought the same, but did not have the guts to tell the boss he was nuts…

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      They were this close to launching Genesis as a separate brand, Lexus-style, and then the 2008 financial crisis happened and there was no way to get a dealer network going, so they took this path instead.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I agree, as a matter of fact I just made a comment about how nice the Genesis looked and how I would never be caught dead in a Hyundai anything. I suggest something similar to what Toyota does with the Crown in Japan. The model is a Toyota, but save a badge on the rear trunk, the Toyota name and logo are not to be seen. The car has it own special badging on the grille and interior.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I test drove a Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-spec. I really have to wonder about someone who drove one and came away impressed. People here probably know what I think about VWs, but the Genesis was so bad that our next stop was an Audi dealer where we leased a new A6.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    An interesting question, but the answer depends upon something we probably don’t know. I agree with you that the future of Lincoln is not with badge-engineered Fusions, Tauruses, Edges, Expeditions and Flexes (all that’s missing is a Focus and a Fiesta!). So, if Ford is going to follow GM’s lesson with Cadillac and make a few brand-specific platforms for Lincoln, then, obviously there’s no point in selling the Lincoln brand.

    However, if, for whatever reason Ford doesn’t feel that it has the cash to support the development of a unique RWD Lincoln platform — a true “Continental” — then the question is whether it can get enough money for essentially a brand and some dealer relationships (which Hyundai doesn’t need) to make such a deal worthwhile. Or, wouldn’t it be better to “retire” the name, in the hope that more money in the future will allow development of another Lincoln Continental.

    Personally, I think the “luxury market” is saturated with “sports sedans.” There is a surfeit of cars with performance metrics (cornering force, acceleration) that hugely exceed what 90 percent of those cars owners’ would tolerate without soiling themselves. Launching two tons plus with sufficient acceleration to reach the speed limit in 6 seconds, or cornering at even 7/10ths the force of gravity is a fairly intimidating experience for the uninitiated.

    So, it seems to me that there is a market for selling other than specification bragging rights to folks with a fair amount of money in their pocket, but not enough money to buy a car that they don’t see several times a day on the road. Lexus seems to have done a pretty good job of that with the LS 400 and its successors; but everyone else in Europe and Japan seems to be vying for the “ultimate driving machine” crown, as measured by the usual metrics reported in the buff books.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Interesting idea. I think the products would fit Lincoln, but I doubt Hyundai would canibalize their own (already not-so roaring) luxocar sales.

  • avatar
    david42

    From a purely vehicular sense, this is spot-on. When I try to explain my Genesis to people who aren’t familiar with the model, I tell them that it’s like a really good Town Car.

    From a marketing perspective, it’s probably a non-starter. Lincoln is a traditional/heritage brand, and the Genesis/Equus are essentially McMansions. I suppose if they had the foresight to codevelop the vehicles, it would be plausible. But the idea of selling a Korean car as a Lincoln just wouldn’t fly.

    It’s a shame, because in many ways the Genesis and Equus would be a perfect match for Lincoln’s not-quite-European luxury role. My $35k Genesis is a plausible alternative to a similarly-priced BMW/Mercedes/Audi. Having said that, if I had $60k to spend, I would almost certainly go for one of those brands instead of an Equus. The little faults on my Genesis are acceptable at this price point, but I’d be pretty ticked off if my $60k car had the same corners cut.

  • avatar
    50merc

    DC wrote “Personally, I think the “luxury market” is saturated with “sports sedans.” Amen! To get traditional luxury-car occupant packaging nowadays, one has to buy an SUV. Now, an Escalade does have its good points, but it’s not what a lady wearing a formal gown wants to climb down from upon arriving at the opera.

    Mr. Lang: “Personally, I still like the model names Continental and Town Car.” As do all reasonable people.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      “Continental” and “Town Car” were once the same model; that is, “Town Car” was initially the fancy trim line of the Lincoln Continental sedan (and coupe, I think) starting around the 1972 model year. A Continental Town Car in the 1970s was the equivalent of the Pontiac Bonneville Brougham that was offered through 1970, with special exterior badges, standard vinyl roof, special upholstery, etc.

      I think all effort should be put into a single line of Continental Town Car (sedan and coupe), after a quick Lincoln shutdown (as quick as that of Mercury) – jettisoning the Lincoln name in the process – and a hiatus of several years.

  • avatar
    SMIA1948

    Lincoln’s only hope for survival is to start building Lincolns. Lincolns are either big, conservatively styled, and distinctively American, or they are nothing. For many years now, they have been nothing.

    There is no point to building a Lincoln that isn’t at least 210 inches long (i.e., bigger than the biggest Lexus or Mercedes. They should offer the ultimate in comfort, quiet, and ride smoothness.

    Of course, with his new CAFE regulations, Obama has effectively made it illegal for Lincoln to build Lincolns. So, the brand dies and the people who work on it lose their jobs. Maybe they can go to work for Solyndra.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      Can’t really blame it on the government here, Cadillac manages to build Cadillacs under the same regs. What’s the Lincoln alternative to a CTS?

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I disagree, the government IS the problem here because of CAFE. Cadillac no longer builds actual Cadillacs and has not for probably at least ten years, they just rebadge Opels and Chevys… its quite embarrassing to see the brand become a Tahoe, an Equinox, and Opel Catera variants. Although I don’t think Mulally would lose any sleep if Lincoln dies, its a real shame we can’t build American cars and employ American workers because of American regulations.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      But who is in the market for that kind of car? Nobody, they are all dying off. I’m 43, certainly none of my friends or myself have any interest in spending 50K on a wallowing barge. My Grandparents would love it, but thier car buying days are over.

      A big Benz or BMW IS the ultimate in quiet and smoothness, the trouble is you can’t get there at half-price (as Hyundai has found out). I had a Towncar as a rental recently, and it was simply a joke of a car.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I can’t believe I’m typing this but: I like the MKS more than the Genesis. Even with the lame name and bad touchscreen. Maybe I’ve been driving FWD stuff for too long.

    And, if I really wanted a four-door vehicle with a hoss V8, I’d go for a 6.2L F150 over a 5.0L Hyundai. I know those two don’t really compete with each other though.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The thing about car enthusiasts is that many people have been trained to think FWD=bad RWD=good, so no matter what else is going on in the Genesis, the fact that it’s RWD automatically makes it better than the MKS in many people’s minds, even if they have never driven or sat in either.

      The MKS has higher quality leather, a quieter cabin, real wood trim, cooled driver AND passenger seats, and with the 2013 model an adaptive suspension for superior ride comfort without body lean, massaging seats, a better nav system, blind spot sensors, self-parking, and a whole host of other features not available on the Genesis.

      The Genesis may have RWD, but the MKS has more opulence, luxury, and technology.

      Most drivers aren’t going to track their cars, and in real world day to day driving RWD doesn’t have any benefits over FWD. If anything, FWD has traction and packaging benefits in most situations. The platform a car is based on shouldn’t matter. Whether the MKZ shares bones with the Fusion and the MKS with the Taurus is irrelevant if the Lincoln vehicles offer features, comfort, and ambiance that exceed their competitors. A luxury car does not have to be a performance car – it just has to feel special, and the updated Lincoln models do that.

  • avatar
    deliverator

    I’m tired of the Genesis coupe being given a pass. Look, it was just based on the Tiburon, a front wheel drive car, and they made it rear wheel drive. Great. And the base engine is just the Mitsubishi turbo engine from the Lancer. My sister’s Genesis coupe has “impressive” looking writing on the valve cover: RS TURBO. Yay. I hate that car. She’s now underwater on it.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The GenCoupe was not based on the Tiburon and the T4 powerplant just shares the block with the Mitsu (Hyundai developed the block and Mitsu, Chrysler and Hyundai each went their own way with it as the basis).

  • avatar
    daviel

    The Chrysler 300 is today’s town car.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      To borrow a line from movie “it couldabeen a contenduh.” That is, without the cheap-o hard plastic interior. The revised version, IMHO, gives on one hand (nicer interior) but takes away on the other (softening the exterior). The 300 has real road presence that none of the Ford-based Lincolns have.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    I don’t think the Genesis is quite up to being a Town Car. Surely we can call it an MK Something. If we have used up all the English letters we can use Greek or Cyrillic letters or something.

    The Equus could be a Town Car, but I think its styling fits Cadillac more than Lincoln. Imagine reworking the front clip to accommodate a Cadillac grille, do the same at the back, and it’s the new Fleetwood Brougham. If we think “Brougham” is too Seventies of a word, go back to the original name — Fleetwood Sixty Special.

  • avatar
    ehaase

    I do not know how Ford justifies the Lincoln MKZ and MKZ when Hyundai can produce the Genesis and Equus.

  • avatar
    Joss

    High Hyundai BMW sighted. Lincoln – not much market to peel from the decoy brand. Keep GM spending on Cadillac.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Wonder what the Genesis would look like with a gunsight hood ornament? Used they might just be cheap enough for me to find out. :P

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    If Ford has the resources to badge-engineer and monkey about with an entire MK-Whadevah line up of meh. Then they’ve got the resources to make one single outstanding car. With today’s tech and manufacturing skills, how hard can it be for a global giant like Ford to recreate a 25-year old Lexus LS. That’s all people want from Lincoln. It will be a single model “top of the range” car. But, it has to be breathtaking to look at, bliss to drive and have a name not a letter, and that name is Continental.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    in my opinion..If Lincoln is to continue to exist there should be only ONE non shared platform period!
    One with numerous custom options.
    and The Lincoln pickup truck.
    Not many sales..but a TON of prestige!

  • avatar

    First of all, let’s consider the fact that it would be very hard to use the “Continental” nameplate when Bentley Motors is currently using it worldwide for its best-selling line of Volkswagen-based vehicles (shares a platform with the VW Phaeton).

    I have to agree that, just as in the modeling world, a presiding opinion is that a vehicle has to fit into one specific category of dynamics–decidedly sporty, yet comfortable and opulent (say, something from Bavaria…)–and it seems to me that most or all major automotive journalists try to compare every vehicle they come upon to that benchmark. NEWSFLASH: You cannot appropriately compare a Chevrolet Cruze RS to a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. Also, different types of vehicles are made for different types of people. Some of us like the sporty, precise feeling of a Jaguar XF or an Audi A6, while others of us would prefer the creamy, loose feel of a Lexus ES 350 or Cadillac DTS. To discount a vehicle because it takes a different approach than another vehicle (again, BMW) seems mighty asinine to me…

  • avatar
    noxioux

    Sense.

    Lincoln should pitch the whole badge-engineering thing and distance it’s cars as far from Ford as possible. Take Cadillac’s CTS, for instance. It may share from the same parts bins as other GM cars, but it is distinct, and desirable all on its own. Especially the V series.

    If I was Lincoln, I’d still steal from Ford, and particularly, the Mustang. Take that nice 300hp V6, and that Coyote V8, put it in a nice RWD/AWD platform with some retro style cues from the mid to late 60’s. Make a Zephyr coupe, Continental Sedan and see how that goes.

    The commenter that said the 300 is the car Lincoln should’ve built is spot-on. Make it big, powerful and stylish. Go big, or go home.

    Trick is, their cars have to say “Lincoln”, not “Expensive Ford Fusion.” If they can’t figure that out, then we’re all better off without them.

  • avatar
    critchdizzle

    My problem is with the “affordable” bit. Lincolns can’t be “affordable” because they have to be sufficiently priced above Fords (and we all know how much Ford prices have crept up) so that people don’t just buy a Ford.

    +1 on the “go big or go home” points, although we all know Lincoln will never do it (CAFE, young buyers, people wanting something they can take to the track even though they never will). However, I think a MKC (since the Continental name is taken, you know they’ll do it) based on the Mustang platform (maybe increase the refinement of the V8) would be gold.

    Is it just me, or would the 2014 Mustang make a much better Lincoln grand tourer than a Mustang?

  • avatar
    bd2

    The Azera, along with the Avalon, Taurus, Maxima, etc. are “upscale”, they simply aren’t “luxury.”

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