By on April 8, 2016

Matthew McConaughey at Lincoln Navigator reveal in New York, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

I still remember it as though it were yesterday. My father, nearly exactly the same age that I am today, pulling up into the driveway of our suburban home in his new company car just slowly enough for everybody in the neighborhood to see.

As a cherubic five year old, I looked down from the window of the bedroom that I shared with my older brother, feeling the same sort of excitement that I normally reserved for things like the very few Christmas mornings that I had experienced thus far. Not because I was necessarily that excited, mind you, but because everybody else in the house was. The buzz was palpable. My dad was bringing home the car that signified that his new position as the president of a brokerage firm, the car that nearly everybody in the early 1980s said was their dream car.

What was the dream car in question? If you were alive in 1983, you already know. It was the Lincoln Town Car, resplendent in the color of a Carolina sky that my ever politically correct mother nicknamed “Polack Blue.” To own a Town Car in the time of Perestroika was to let everybody else know that you were somebody. That you had made it. 

Now? The Lincoln Motor Company is trying to bring back some of that panache with their Black Label sub-brand — and they’ve been trying for two-plus years. As a nearly literal lifelong Lincoln fan, I’m unprofessionally rooting for them to get it right. Unfortunately, in the middle of all the #branding #luxury #marketing that Lincoln is doing surrounding this concept, they seem to have forgotten one thing.

If you have a memory (or hell, a life span) long enough to identify with the pride that my entire family had upon my dad’s arrival with that Town Car, you probably also remember what the world was like during that time. When it came to mainstream luxury cars in the ’80s, there were exactly three brands that mattered: Cadillac, Mercedes, and Lincoln. BMW was still fiddling around with squarish low-powered cars, and Audi was being crucified by the public for that decade’s unintended acceleration scandal. Jaguar was plagued with reliability issues. Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura didn’t exist.

In fact, it could be said that the closest thing to a luxury competitor that Lincoln and Cadillac faced could be found in the same showrooms — Mercury, in the case of Lincoln, and Buick, right down the aisle from Caddy. Choices were few and far between for the aspiring, upwardly mobile professional. I specifically remember a poll being taken at the time that asked what the average American considered to be his dream car, and the responses were split between Ferrari Testarossa and Lincoln Town Car. I kid you not.

Fast forward to 2016, and Lincoln faces a bit of an identity crisis. This isn’t breaking news. In fact, even though I lust after a certified EcoBoost MKS in Java (I think it’s the best used car value on the market today, and I’d almost be surprised if I don’t buy one when the FiST lease is up) the name “Lincoln” just doesn’t carry the same weight that it once did. What I think everybody understands, even morons on the internet who say things like “MKTauruS” and think they’re being insightful, is that Lincoln needs, well … Lincolns.

The Navigator Concept revealed at the New York International Auto Show was a step in the right direction. Yes, it’s gaudy. Yes, those gullwing doors and extended risers are ridiculous. And no, they won’t make it to production. But along with the Continental (yes, I wanted it to have a V8, too), Lincoln is generating some real buzz for the first time in God-knows-how-long.

So I want the Black Label idea to make sense. Really. I like the idea of the “themed” interiors. I love the worry-free service experience it provides. The Black Label showrooms themselves are gorgeous. I was recently a visitor to a Detroit-area Black Label dealer, and the experience that the Black Label customer will receive is easily equivalent or superior to the experience provided by any Lexus store.

Alexia from Fellow Barber stands with Bark M., Image: © 2016 Nilo Salmasi/The Truth About Cars

Lincoln was kind enough to pick me up from the Javits Center and take me to Fellow Barber, a Black Label partner, for a haircut and a shave from the lovely and talented Alexia. She gave me a wonderful haircut, a better facial hair look, and she even pretended that my French was passable. All Black Label customers in NYC can take advantage of this service through April, as well as custom menu items from upscale restaurants across America. With Black Label, Lincoln has gotten all of the ancillary stuff right, no question.

But there’s one thing missing: cars. You can’t make a brand premium without offering a premium product. The MKZ, MKX, and MKC just aren’t premium cars, no matter how much theming you give them. Even the kind gentleman who picked me up and dropped me back off in an MKX complained that it just felt small and cramped in the driver’s seat, a problem that has plagued the MKS from the get-go. Also, I hate to be this guy — really, I do — but I can’t stop seeing Fusion, Edge, and Escape when I walk into Lincoln showrooms. And the equivalent Fords are just so good on their own that, in some ways, it could be said that the Lincoln brand actually diminishes its own offerings.

So what does Lincoln need to make Black Label more than just a concept or a hashtag? They need real Lexus and BMW competitors. They need some rear-wheel drive. They need a genuinely fucking fast car — I mean, come on, you can make a Lincoln Escape but you can’t make a Lincoln Mustang? We all want one. Just put four doors on the damn thing and call it a day. Maybe you wouldn’t sell a lot of them, but wouldn’t a Black Label four-door Shelby GT350 equivalent, with pimped-out African blackwood (whoops, I didn’t mean to bring up Blackwood, Lincoln) trim and red interior be straight-up baller?

Then you can call it Black Label. Then you can take some big, bad, flat-crank 550-horsepower sedan with rear-wheel drive (and yes, maybe even a V-8), make it premium as hell inside, and build Black Label cars that the world envies. Why not make Black Label a real M or AMG competitor? Make it a legitimate alternative to an E63 or M5. Make it powerful. Make it American. Make it a goddamned Lincoln.

Then, someday, when I become President of TTAC (not gonna happen), I can feel just as proud behind the wheel of my new Lincoln Black Label MKBADAZZ as my dad did bringing that Town Car home over 30 years ago. Come on, Lincoln. You can do it. For me? Please?

Lincoln provided a really good haircut, a style session with LeBron James’ personal stylist, some hair products, and personalized stationery, as well as a trip around Manhattan in a Lincoln MKX.

[Images: © 2016 Bark M. and Nilo Salmasi/The Truth About Cars]

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98 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: When It Comes To #Branding, Cars Still Come First...”


  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    It says something about the current Lincoln lineup that a fan of the brand openly admits that the Lincoln he desires either does not exist or is now worth buying only on the CPO market.

    Edit: Given market trends, it seems to me that Lincoln really needs that Navigator to compete successfully with the Escalade. I’d like to see a long, low, large, dignified sedan or luxo 4 door Mustang as well, but the future is increasingly lifted AWD boxes and blobs.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      THIS!!!!

      Most of what Lincoln and Caddy should be is what they could be but have shown little evidence of becoming. Until then, they just mostly suck.

      Also, practical and affordable flying cars are just around the corner.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    If they’re retaining Navigator and bringing back Continental, I think they should bring Town Car and Zephyr back too.

  • avatar
    Sam Hall

    The MKX (or whatever the Escape-based Lincoln is called) isn’t the problem. It’s the Fusion-based car, and all the others. If Lincoln had a Town Car with proper RWD they’d sell as many of their CUVs as they wanted to.

    Unfortunately, I think it’s just not going to happen. Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar are all about brand management, while the domestics keep lying down on the job for years or decades at a time. Cadillac almost died of that, and Lincoln is within 5-10 years of doing so. And yes, their lunch is being eaten by the upscale Fords. Ford has history and authenticity. The public no longer knows Lincoln’s history, and its authenticity was long ago badge-engineered away.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Ford would be more successful if they killed off Lincoln and brough the Ford Vignale products they sell in Europe. Vignale has a European name and could be established as new and trendy.

      Lincoln, like Cadillac and Buick, has been associated with old people for decades and would take 15+ years of great product to change the opinion of the brand. Contrary to what people post in comments on this site, Cadillac’s products are really good. Not perfect but they are great. The problem is that people don’t even look at them because they dismiss Cadillac as a car for old people and assume their cars are soft spongy land barges rather than Americanized BMWs.

      GM should’ve left Caddy building soft cars for old people and introduced a new brand name to compete with BMW/Mercedes/Audi. It’s easier to build a brand from scratch than to completely change the impression of a brand built over the last 40 years. Or just bring back a dead brandname like Packard or Duesenberg or Auburn to label your Euro-style luxury cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnster

      I even give the Fusion-based MKZ a pass. It’s not a bad car and a good alternative to the Lexus ES350. The MKS and Continental aren’t that bad either. (Though Robert Cumberford really trashed the new Continental’s styling in the latest edition of “Automobile Magazine.” Not undeservedly.)

      The problem is that Lincoln doesn’t have a flagship and all the cars they build are a step behind Cadillac. The MKZ, MKS and upcoming Continental are NOT flagships. The Mark VIII was a flagship. The Town Car was a flagship. The LS (while not a flagship) was at least competitive with mid-sized European luxury cars.

      There’s no good reason for Lincoln NOT to have a car based on the Mustang. Perhaps a revived Lincoln LS to start with? Surely Ford and Lincoln can come up with an adaptive platform system similar to the one GM uses on their Cadillacs and other cars.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        The Continental will make a flagship sedan, why you dont consider it such is lost on me. Since it appears the Taurus is gone, and the MKS is already out of production, the Conti will have no Ford-badged brother, and has a Lincoln-exclusive 400 HP T/T 3.0L V-6. It has a handsome new design language that is very much Lincoln, and a very well-done interior, I think itll deliver the goods to both traditional Lincoln buyers and those new to the brand. If you or some magazine writer’s opinion is that it doesnt live up to whatever you think it should be, fine, but I believe it has strong potential and is a considerably more thought-out effort than, say, the MKS it replaces.

        Then there is the upcoming all-new Navigator. Like it or not, its the most iconic Lincoln nameplate currently in production (of course the Continental name will fill that role when its launched), it pretty much created the full size luxury SUV segment in 1998, and has played second fiddle (sales wise) to its rival over at Cadillac for far too long. The new one looks fantastic and will have many advantages over the ‘Slade. It is the largest and most recognizable Lincoln, it will make for a fine flagship. Flagships cant be trucks/SUVs? Wrong. Welcome to the new age, its already true for Cadillac and Infiniti.

        The “adaptable platform” you spoke of is pretty much already in place, underpinning the MKZ as well as others, and has been “adapted” to make the larger Continental. Besides, it doesnt seem to be working out well for Cadillac, sales wise. Its a shame, because theyre pretty awesome cars, but nobody is buying them.

        Everyone wants RWD cars, as though all the automaker’s problems would be fixed if they got rid of wrong-wheel-drive. “If only the Conti were RWD. If they just had a RWD 4-door Mustang”, etc. Well, RWD isnt helping Cadillac, is it? FWD/AWD doesnt seem to be killing Audi, does it?
        Ford is giving Lincoln the torque-vectoring rear diff technology from the Focus RS to be used in the AWD Conti and (facelifted) MKZ, how about we stop beating the dead horse and wait until it actually gets driven before we damn it all to hell, mmmkay?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    You are on track until you get to this part:

    “Then you can take some big, bad, flat-crank 550-horsepower sedan with rear-wheel drive (and yes, maybe even a V-8), make it premium as hell inside, and build Black Label cars that the world envies. Why not make Black Label a real M or AMG competitor? Make it a legitimate alternative to an E63 or M5. Make it powerful. Make it American. Make it a goddamned Lincoln.”

    Powerful, yes. Like M or AMG, hell no! That’s the mistake that Cadillac made, and Lincoln shouldn’t go down the same path.

    Lincolns should be like that Town Car. Big, comfortable, a bit (or more) gaudy… dare I say “brougham?” … and quiet, powerful, and refined to drive with an S-Class style ride. The car should be well-controlled but there is no need to put driving dynamics first. The Continental is a good start — the best product Lincoln’s had since the Mark VIII — but the concept needs to go farther and there needs to be at least one car and one CUV/SUV on a dedicated, RWD-based platform. A stretched Mustang platform would get you there only if widened and *heavily* modified to serve the goals of quiet and effortless rather than balanced and agile.

    In terms of appearance, every Lincoln should have all the looks pieces. Fancy LED or HID headlights from the base model up, lots of chrome, an interior that looks just like the one on the Continental concept, 30-way heated and cooled seats everywhere, lots of other gizmos and buttons to push, and a sense of occasion should be there in the cheapest Lincoln. Every one should feel like a FANCY CAR inside.

    A flat-crank V8 is totally the wrong engine. For appropriate power delivery for this kind of car, the corporate 3.0 and new-gen 3.5 twin-turbo V6es are perfect. There’s probably enough brand equity in the name “V8” that they should offer a V8 anyway, although Ford’s V8s aren’t as appropriate for the actual mission as the turbo sixes. A hybrid V6 powertrain with a stonking electric motor tuned to have the engine off as often as possible at low speed would also work really well.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Whether that path is a “mistake” for Caddy is yet to be seen. I’d say it hasn’t been an immediate success, but the fact is that they brought out the ATS and CTS at a time when sales of luxury sedans were going down across the board – even the ones from BMW and Mercedes are down sales-wise.

      But I’d say the fact that they DO make cars that truly compare to BMW and Benz is vitally important for the brand.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        *Compare to* BMW and Benz? Yes.
        *Ape* BMW in particular? No.

        Caddy’s current sedans are very good — whatever you think of the ATS gauge cluster and back seat — but the haters have a point that they don’t always reflect Cadillac brand values, particularly at either the super-low-end when equipped like stripper BMWs or the super-high-end in V form.

        American luxury always meant something a bit more opulent and less buttoned-down than German luxury, and Cadillac should have kept that in mind. I would have kept the 2G CTS “tweener” size for the ATS and made the 3G CTS a couple inches longer between the wheels; made every single bit of lighting and trim bling standard on all models; never sold a car with the NA 2.5; made the turbo V6 a lower-cost option; and given the Alpha platform the same basic bones while tuning a bit more for quiet and ride quality.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          +1 to Dal’s second paragraph.

          I’d also offer a version of the 5.3L V8 on the ATS and CTS (although I know how he feels about OHV engines in premium brand cars).

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I’d say the current Cadillac lineup definitely doesn’t reflect “traditional” Cadillac values. And that’s a good thing – the market for people who want a “traditional,” floaty, pimped-out luxury car is largely gone. These folks are gravitating towards vehicles like the Escalade, and it’s selling. If there was a huge market for the “traditional” luxury barge, then the XTS would have been a huge hit, and Lincoln would still be making Town Cars.

          For younger buyers, a “traditional luxury sedan” has morphed from a DeVille or Town Car to something like a E-class Benz. These are folks who grew up aspiring to a car like that (or something like a Lexus LS400), so their tastes are different.

          You still cater to these folks, because even though the sedan market is down, it’s still important. I also think Mercedes and BMW are moving away from that market, and Lexus’ offerings in the segment are (to be kind) uninspiring, so there’s an opportunity for someone like Cadillac there. Their products are about 88% there – fix the dash and CUE, build in a bigger back seat, and jazz up the styling, and I think they’ll take a lot of market share from BMW, in particular.

          I think the upcoming Continental will be an interesting case study – it’s flashy looking and luxurious, but built on fairly pedestrian mechanicals, just like “traditional” sedans were. Will it sell? If so, then maybe the key to the “traditional” sedan is styling. I have a feeling the Connie will be successful (it’ll NUKE the XTS’ sales, for sure), but not hugely so. Any bets?

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Did you consider the 2nd gen CTS to be a floaty, pimped-out luxury barge? That is what they should have built on. Heck, an STS with an interior not out of 1997 would have been great.

            There is a way to do a modern Cadillac with resorting to the extremes (floaty, 70s barge on one end and a cramped, high-priced bahnburner on the other).

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            “If there was a huge market for the “traditional” luxury barge, then the XTS would have been a huge hit, and Lincoln would still be making Town Cars.”

            I’m not saying Lincoln (or Caddy) should make an XTS or revived Town Car. I’m saying they should keep some of the brand DNA in a fresh, modern product, rather than giving up (Lincoln) or trying to be BMW (Caddy). Producing a sedan with the Continental Concept interior would definitely attract some new customers; it’s a fresh idea, not just a throwback to the ’70s.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            No, the CTS wasn’t isn’t pimped out, but I’d give two purely objective reasons for its’ decline in sales:

            1) Size wise, the old CTS was an in-between – not as small as a 3-series, not as big as an E class, so it picked up sales from both buyer types. With the ATS, it lost the sales that would have come from compact buyers.

            2) Sales of luxury sport sedans – not just Caddy’s, but everyone’s – are down pretty sharply. CUVs are where it’s at in this segment now.

            So, I think even if the new CTS hadn’t come with the compromises it did (CUE, not-great back seat, etc), it’d have still declined in sales.

          • 0 avatar
            derekson

            “No, the CTS wasn’t isn’t pimped out, but I’d give two purely objective reasons for its’ decline in sales:”

            I imagine it also lost sales because CTS was an established nameplate, and they took it up nearly a full size class with an attendant price increase. People see Cadillac CTS and think it’s a 3-series fighter, and it then looks MASSIVELY overpriced. Buyers who had a CTS already see that and think they’re going to have to pay that kind of money to replace their CTS with a new one, even though the ATS is closer in size and price to the old CTS.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Okay, here’s the successful recipe for the true luxury vehicle cake, that advertising has very little to do with (we’re in a rightfully cynical of advertising/marketing psychological gamesmanship era – at least Gen X & Y are):

      1) PLUSH riding vehicles over any road surface. Just achieve it.

      2) Solid as a bank vault (carved from a single block of titanium feel). Just achieve it.

      3) Quiet inside as a fortress of solitude, even at speed.

      4) Genuinely awesome interior materials inside, whether wood, metal or leather, genuinely precisely sourced, crafted and installed.

      5) Enough motor under the hood to outrace any hurricane or Mad Max-style posse.

      6) More elbow, hip, leg, head, shoulder and any other room to seat a minimum of 4 to 7 (depending on vehicle) people in first-class style comfort.

      7) Top of the chart, consistent reliability, that is an absolute given.

      8) A stress-free buying/leasing & ownership experience from the 1st to last day.

      Finit.

      • 0 avatar
        baconator

        Yup, I think you’ve got the formula. The car I’ve driven that the most of those boxes is the Mercedes S-class, and it’s missing (7) and (8). Very few powerful vehicles ride well and are quiet nowadays. The ones that have the chassis rigidity to get there generally spoil the party with gigantic rims and ultra-low-profile tires.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Is that it? :-)

        Aren’t you describing Lexus and Mercedes (if you ignore #7 in the case of Mercedes)?

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      A big Lincoln coupe that felt like a big Mercedes AMG coupe would be nice. They probably *could* do such a thing with the current Mustang as the starting point. Hybrid power could bring a lot of torque, and limitless torque is a great luxury.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        It needs to be softer than the AMG CL/S coupe. And bigger. Those things are too buttoned down, in the name of comfortable Tempo 250 Autobahn duty.

        A big American coupe, needs a little bit of that golden era powerboat hood rise, during acceleration. To make it seem a bit alive and organic. And s bit softer turn-in, slower reflexes, and more muted transitions.

        It should be purpose built, optimized and tuned explicitly and solely for maximum livability and luxury at speeds from 0-100 mph. Screw the triple digit stuff. This is an area where the Germans (and nowadays, even Bentley) simply cannot compete on an equal footing, since they need to take the very challenging 100-155 range into consideration as well. Definitionally forcing them to make compromises to the US relevant sub 100 realm.

        In pure technical terms, start with very big rolling circumference wheels/tires. A big car (heck, even a smaller one like the latest Porches) can handle them stylistically, and bigger hoops make for a more luxurious ride across pothole infested American roads. In general, take as many cues from the Raptor as from the Autobahn sleds, wrt wheel and suspension tuning. And arrive at the optimum for a US luxo coupe, somewhere in the middle. Then the designers should ask themselves, or perhaps the man himself, “what would Filmore Slim prefer to drive and be seen in, when out and about cruising around checking up on his hos.”

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      and putting a flat-plane V8 in a Lincoln would be suicidal. flat-crank V8s have the same 2nd-harmonic vibration problems that 4-bangers do.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        I thought I read somewhere that Ford and Shelby had come up with some new technology to address the 2nd harmonics issues on their flat-cranker. Beyond that I don’t recall, just that they were aware of the problem and that they had a game plan for it.

  • avatar

    Lincoln/ Ford CONCEPTS are the ones everyone wants. The crap they build is crap.

    That Navigator was AMAZING.

    BIG, AMERICAN, POWERFUL and BLUEEEEEE as HELL.

    But will a Huge Navigator with Gull Wings and an interior like a Gulfstream get built?

    I doubt it.

    How about the movie NEED FOR SPEED?

    The concept Shelby was AWESOME.

    Problem was:

    #1 They aren’t building it

    #2 They stopped in the 900’s for HP instead of rounding it out to 1000 or 1500 or something I’d believe more.

    If you make a “movie” with a “script”…and there’s a car in it…

    Just say it has 2002 HP and demonstrate that the police can’t catch it.

    Generates “WANT”.

    Why not “CLAIM” that this big blue Navigators with the Gull Wing doors has a TWIN TURBO V8 COYOTE in it making over 800HP?

    Nobody is gonna check under the hood (they can’t)

    And it sounds AWESOME.

    Or…how about it is gonna be an EV that weighs 7000 pounds and goes 0 – 60 in 2.9 seconds?

    These people have no idea how to generate WANTS.

    The Navigator and Escalade are the ONLY vehicles from Cadillac and Lincoln that “are what a Cadillac and Lincoln should be”.

    The only other exception is “Cadillac One” driven by Obama’s SS.

    The whole alphabet soup naming strategy has been an ABJECT FAILURE.

    I saw the Continental at NYIAS (which you couldn’t even get in) and it had a nice interior and all, but it could never compete with the E-class, S-class, Audis and BMW’s that own that market.

    Lincoln NEEDS TO BUILD THAT NAVIGATOR.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Bark, Thanks some of the B&B have been writing this consistently.
    From the end of WWII until about the late 70’s Cadillac and Lincoln were ‘it’. Although for short period Imperials also competed with them. You might get more prestige with a Rolls Royce but it drove like a previous generation Buick and spent most of its time in the shop. Lincoln overtook Cadillac in the early/mid 70s’ based on the Mark III/IV and Town Car which had more ‘bling’ than contemporary Cadillacs.

    Audi sold down market cars which were better equipped VW’s. BMW was competing with Saab for quirky rally style cars.

    Mercedes had some good product but the interiors were considered austere, their mainstream products lacked bling and were perceived to have engines that were ‘too small’.

    As so many of us have said Lincoln and Cadillac need a halo vehicle. Something so big, bad and expensive that those with more money than brains will line up to buy it. That brings cache. And then their followers will lust after that nameplate.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, a couple of observations here, Bark…I have a few years on you, so I remember what Lincoln was about in 1983.

    1) I don’t mean to rain on your youthful memories, but I was 20 the year your dad rolled up in that Town Car, and by then, I’d driven a couple – we took some family trips in the early ’80s, and we had Town Cars as rentals. Compared to the stuff we had at home from age 16 to the year 1983 (a Mercedes 450SE and a BMW 730i), the Town Car was ridiculously inferior in every way (save, of course, the ultra-cushy ride and the store-six-made-men-who-will-be-sleeping-with-the-fishes trunk). From what Jack has written about your dad (and this is just my personal impression), if it was his money, versus the company’s, a Town Car wouldn’t have been his first (or tenth) choice. And that pretty much sums it up for the Town Car – people spending their own money and not in Depends were rejecting it for the FAR better cars out there at the time.

    2) As hinted at above, folks with money may have been rejecting the Town Car, but the fleets weren’t – by the mid-’80s, the Town Car was an EPIC Hertz queen.

    3) The rest of the Lincoln line in the early ’80s was a s**t show. There was the Town Car and Mark VI, both of which were fancied-up LTDs, and the Continental, which was the world’s most hideous Fairmount. Yecch.

    3) The Mark VII, which was definitely the best thing Lincoln had done in years (and maybe the best thing they’ve done EVER after the 1960s Connies) was a year away, and even then, when it came out, it was basically a glorified T-Bird, with a wimpy engine and silly digital dash. It took them a couple of years after that to get the model right, with an uprated V-8 and decent instrument panel. Still, even with the upgrades, it was not even close to being a Mercedes SLC or BMW 6 series. But the Mark VII and Mark VIII are probably the closest thing I can think of to your “Mustang Lincoln” idea (heck, the Mark VI even had the same engine and platform as the Mustangs of the day), and did it really work? I remember them as moderately successful, but not game-changers for the brand.

    4) “Why not make Black Label a real M or AMG competitor?” You’re making the case for making Lincolns drive more like BMWs and Benzes. As a guy who loves cars, I love that idea. Problem is, Cadillac’s already doing that (they even have the V-series cars, which compete directly and successfully against BMW M models and AMGs) and the jury’s out on how well this has worked out. Maybe if they had a proper rear-drive platform, and avoided all the ATS/CTS product flaws Cadillac baked in (CUE, small back seats, so-so styling, etc), I’m not sure they’d sell. Sucks, but I think it’s true. This market today wants CUVs.

    Lincoln hasn’t been a “true” upscale brand for a LONG time. And what’s “upscale” today? It’s CUVs, and Lincoln’s are quite competitive, near as I can tell.

    I’m hoping the new Connie changes the game for the brand (I saw one at the auto show, and it’s a looker) and gives them the capital to develop some RWD platforms, but given Cadillac’s experience doing that, is that the way they’ll go? Somehow I doubt it.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I was going to post this. I was 14 in ’83, and the only people I knew interested in a Lincoln had one foot in a nursing home. I guess they were big in the flyover states and with mobsters, but a non-starter on the coasts. The Europeans had already eaten their lunch by then.

      My then mid 60s grandfather bought his retirement car in ’84, and even he dismissed a Town Car as an “old fart car”. The ’85 Olds 98 he bought was junk, but it was better more modern junk than the Lincolns.

      I have to think a Mustang with a real back seat and a great interior would be a lovely thing.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        I was born in ’84, but the idea that a Town Car was a “dream car” in ’83 seemed a bit fantastical to me. Glad to hear that confirmed from people with firsthand memories.

        This article and the story of the ’83 Town Car was a great window into the etiology of the Baruth family Lincoln/Ford fanboyism though.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Lincoln peaked in about 1976. Their cachet continued among the general public for a few more years.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I’d go with the peak being the mid-’60s, Arthur. After that the badge engineered mania began in earnest. It wasn’t that bad in the late ’60s and early ’70s, but when you could put a Mark IV right next to a mid-’70s T-bird and tell they were EXACTLY the same car, that was a huge problem.

            At least the Mark III LOOKED distinct.

          • 0 avatar
            pdq

            ehhhhhhh….I’m thinking closer to 1972. By 1974 they had those huge park bench size bumpers front and rear which severely messed up the styling and the smog equipment had completely emasculated the engines.

            Both the Town Car and the Mark IV/V were ponderous and incredibly gutless. The engines were pinging more often than not, the cold start was no fun, the steering provided no feedback. Driving a mid-late 70’s Lincoln was like piloting an aircraft carrier that had been stripped of all its weaponry and systems that made it special in the first place.

            At least with the ’72 model year cars you still had the “baby bumpers” and the engines had some get-up-and-go.

            If you really want Lincolns with style and panache, you’d have to go back to the 60’s and the suicide door model, the Continental Mark II from ’56-57 or the pre-WWII cars.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “I have to think a Mustang with a real back seat and a great interior would be a lovely thing.”

        Well, in a way it’s already made – it’s the CTS-V (or V-sport).

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Lincoln actually challenged Cadillac starting in about 72, perhaps GM’s response was one of the reasons for Cadillacs decline?

          Between The Old Man, myself and my mother we had brand new 73, 74 and 78 T-Birds and 74, 75, 76, 77 Mark’s. And access to 74- 78 Town Cars through The Old Man’s business partner who rarely drove but still leased a new one each year.

          The Pucci Mark IV was the unanimous favourite of everyone in the family.

          Although as mentioned not that different from the T-Bird the reaction to the Mark was much different. It just had more style and presence.

          The 78 T-Bird was by far the worst car I have ever owned and that includes a Pinto wagon, Datsun 210 Sunny and a late 60’s Beaumont.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      The 1988.5 Mark VII LSC was a beast in its time – the presence of a Mercedes 560 coupe, and a fair bit of the performance with its Mustang GT drivetrain, and unique combination of cushy air sprungs, shockingly wide tires, and anti-roll bars the size of your thigh. Luxury came via blue perforated leather sport seats, JBL sound, and bank-vault silence. It was let down by interior bits that managed to be both plasticky and old-fashioned, an archaic rear solid axle setup, blind spots to rule the ages, and electronic-everything that fried with the first power surge from the charging system. Still, my dad had one and loved it – and this was a guy who’d owned a BMW CS Coupe, Mercedes 450 SEL, Jaguar E-Type, and Boattail Riviera. It was the first and last Lincoln I’d like to own.

  • avatar
    ellomdian

    Much digital ink is spilled over a desire for Lincoln, Cadillac, and Mercedes to go back to the way that people remember them (and to a lesser extend, for Porsche, BMW, and even Ferrari and Lamborghini to do the same.) Editorials wax rhapsodic about the emotions their authors felt the first time they saw a car, or sat in one, or about how their family acted when Dad brought one home.

    The problem is that people tend to forget that 30 years ago and more, the reason why many of the above brands felt so special was that the ‘average’ product coming out of manufacturers was SHIT. Now that a base model Focus is a fantastic car full-stop, the differentiation between tiers is largely perceptual. Today’s luxury brands know that it’s far easier to sell image and brand. Luxury is a function more of the conspicuousness of consumption than the underlying engineering and quality of manufacture.

    And you know what? They’re right, and soon enough the only distinction between your self driving pod and your neighbors will be how much you paid for the interior trim color. I just wonder if the younger among us will have the same kinds of feelings about the cars of today in 20 years that we have about those of our youth.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      That’s the thing, though…Mercedes IS pretty much doing “what they used to do,” just with a bunch more CUVs in the lineup.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Agreed, so is BMW.

        Really, so is Lincoln – they were never more than Fords with delusions of grandeur past the 60s anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Sorry,
        BMW doing what they always did? You mean bubble and 3 wheeled cars?

        Mercedes doing what they always did? Do you remember how the 190 diesel was regarded in North America? And even Clarkson laments how Mercedes started building to a price point, selling cars with a reliability factor equivalent to that of Fiat.

        In other words, both companies have had their ‘ups and downs’, yet managed to recover much more quickly than their American counterparts.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Well, how ’bout “BMW is doing what it did 25 years ago”?

          (Few people remember the bubble and 3-wheeled BMWs.)

          And I think we’re talking about the types of products BMW and Benz are making now versus 30 years ago, versus whether they’re still as good as they were. They’re still making the same basic product line (compact, midsize and full size sedans, top of the line coupes, and high-end roadsters), just with a lot of CUVs thrown into the mix now.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          MBs reliability may well have been fairly constant. It was just that the others’ improved.

          The rapid growth of leases in the luxury space over the past 2-3 decades, has rendered reliability less of a selling point than new-new, EPA gaming and ‘Ring times, anyway. At least until the bubble bursts.

          As for BMW, do they even make cars with proper transmissions anymore? Or, proper tires, for that matter….

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        I have to disagree. Mercedes-Benzes used to be surprisingly stark vehicles designed for the serious business of being solid and stable at Autobahn speeds. The amentities found in today’s S-Class like purfume sprayers, seat massagers, thick carpets, and moonlight-effect sunroofs would have been written off as frivolous on their predecessors from the ’80s or earlier.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “Now that a base model Focus is a fantastic car full-stop, the differentiation between tiers is largely perceptual. Today’s luxury brands know that it’s far easier to sell image and brand.”

      Luxury cars need to distinguish themselves to be worth the premium.

      Tesla is the only brand that’s bothered to do that in a meaningful (to me) way during my adult life.

      If Lincoln or Cadillac had dared as greatly as the engineers and leaders at Tesla have, I’d be buying a $35-$50k AWD electric car with a 215+ mile range from them in 2018. But, I’ll be buying that car from Tesla instead.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Your 5 year old memories of Lincoln as premium brand on par with Mercedes and above BMW are not surprisingly inaccurate. Whatever prestige Lincoln had was fading fast by the early 80s, and BMW was definitely the fast rising prestige brand at that time. That is part of Lincoln’s (and Cadillac’s) problem – they really haven’t been aspirational brands for anybody except blue collar and senior citizen “buy American” segments since the 1960s. It will take 20+ years of high quality products and great dealer service to maybe get most people to consider them as serious competitors to the big 3 Germans and Lexus. Cadillac has clearly put more effort into product than Lincoln over the past 15 years, and they still haven’t closed the gap with the Germans or Lexus, so Lincoln’s road to the top will be even steeper, and it remains to be seen if Ford management has the patience to make it happen.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Lincoln provided a really good haircut, a style session with LeBron James’ personal stylist, some hair products, and personalized stationery, as well as a trip around Manhattan in a Lincoln MKX.

    That whole sentence just makes me want to LMFAO. You’d think that they were Bentley or maybe Hyundai launching the new Genesis sub-brand.

    Product first then marketing. Otherwise you run the risk of making this all a huge joke. I can try to sell Kraft Mac and Cheese as Macaroni le Fromage but that doesn’t change the fact that my 19 month old daughter is the biggest fan of their product in my house.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’m going to disagree and say that’s not such a bad idea. Yes, it has nothing do with the cars themselves, but the fact is that folks with enough money to buy a Lincoln are probably busy and would appreciate this kind of service.

      Also, keep in mind the rationale for buying a luxury car now is different than it was in years past. At one point, you bought one because there was a huge qualitative difference between expensive, premium cars and the ones that “the masses” bought. That difference has largely disappeared – slap a Mercedes badge on a Fusion, transport it back to 1985, and it’d be a revelation.

      The qualitative difference between luxury brands has also largely evaporated. Back in the day, a Caddy or Lincoln was DRAMATICALLY worse in just about every way than, say a S-class Benz. That’s why they lost market share. Today, the Benzes are somewhat cheaped-out (they couldn’t possibly overbuild them like they used to and still make money), and the Caddys and Lincolns are vastly improved, so the gulf is smaller. Less-discerning drivers probably wouldn’t find much difference in the drive between these cars now. So, instead of selling the superiority of the product, you sell the superiority of the buying and ownership experience. That’s one of the things that made Lexus so successful – yes, the cars were good, but buying them and owning them was also a satisfying experience.

      That sells in this market.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Lexuses are still throwbacks to old school good. If they were a bit cheaper, you could put them into third world taxicab service, and they’d comport themselves like an old W123. Of course, in today’s market, those sensibilities make them seem a bit quaint, stodgy and old fashioned.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      LOL, everything sounds more elegant in French

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        “Potty Frog Wah, hell! Give me a cheeseburger!” — Wonder Warthog, a character created by Gilbert Shelton under the pen-name Foolbert Sturgeon.

  • avatar
    yamahog

    Lincoln is in a tough spot.

    Either Ford is chained to the corpse of Lincoln or Lincoln is shackled to Ford. They’re intertwined in all the worst ways: Lincoln isn’t big enough to justify bespoke engineering so they have to use the Ford parts bin for everything major.

    Ford can’t give up on Lincoln after all the recent investment. And many of the Lincoln dealers are Ford dealers and when you walk in, you can see a Lincoln SUV and the comparable Ford and the difference in sticker price between the two has to resonate with buyers. And I wonder about the efficacy of the black label for elderly buyers who have time. I’m sure busy high income people appreciate it but those people also need the product to be there. And often, the high earners are intelligent enough to realize that a loaded Ford is 95% as good as the Lincoln and costs much less and doesn’t attract attention. And if someone wants to attract attention, they would never buy a Lincoln over a flashy car like an Escalade or

    With all my experience in marketing, I’ve come to realize that people buy things 3 ways. And often these factors interact in complex ways but my rule of thumb is that you pay $1 dollars for something that gets the job done, you’ll pay $10 for something that makes you feel like you got the best thing for the job, and $100 for something that tells others you got the best thing for a job. A $5,000 Corolla gets you to work and back. A $50,000 luxury sedan is one of the nicest ways to get to work. And a $500,000 car tells people that you don’t have to work.

    Some people make some purchases with their head – they buy logical, sensible items. Growing up, my neighbor was a very high ranking partner at an accounting firm, he lived in a modest house (for him) and one day he went to purchase a Volvo but they had a good deal on a used Corolla on their lot so he bought that instead. These people buy Fords.

    Some people make purchases with their heart/gut. They buy a product that lets them feel a certain way about themselves – I imagine the F150s you see in the suburbs and the convertible mustangs are purchased for this reason. They want to feel secure, or powerful, or sporty, or interesting. And I don’t see how a person feels better about buying a Lincoln than any other car. It’s an irrelevant brand for most people under the age of 40 and it’s not front of mind for the vast majority of people.

    And other people make purchases to communicate something to others. I’d say that these purchases are driven by the parts of us that resonate with sex appeal. But things like $5,000 handbags and $50,000 watches aren’t purchased by people who want to feel differently about themselves, they want other people to know something about them.

    Lincoln used to have the cachet of sending a signal, but it doesn’t any more. And it’s hard to have any appreciable volume and communicate that signal.

    Lincoln should find a message that resonates with people and ride it out with products that harmonize with it.

    Right now, I think anti-establishment in the Boston-Washington D.C corridor might resonate strongly nationwide. If I were Lincoln, I’d take my development money and plow it into soft and supple suspension calibrations and things like laminated windows, triple sealed doors, and small rims with thick sidewalls. And then I’d position it like Buick was in the 1960s but not exactly.

    I think Ford/Lincoln buyers place value on technology and ecoboost and awd. I’d position it so Lincoln was always 15% more than a comparable Ford, but the spread between a base ford and a loaded ford was about 60% and use Lincoln as a way to get people to pay extra for softer cars, and take Ford in the direction of making sportier / cheaper to make cars.

    I imagine it’d be like this –

    Ford Fusion – 22k
    and charge up to 6k to load it with technology, another 5k for AWD, and another 4k for ecoboost. A loaded Ford Fusion would be a 38k car.

    A Lincoln Fusion would start at $25k. Technology could add 7k to the sticker, 5.5k for AWD, and 4.5k for ecoboost.

    A lot of people like soft cars and they’re not as available as they once were. Even the Lexus ES and Toyota Avalon are relatively firm. The only soft car I can think of is the K900 but that’s a rare car and people who like soft cars don’t know about it.

    But it’s important to give rational people a reason to chose Lincoln and it’s important that people who buy Lincolns feel like they got something for their money and they got one of the most comfortable cars available.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @ yamahog, I agree with you. Maybe GM and Ford had it right back then. Now passing my ‘middle age’ while recently driving an older Buick I realized that hey, what I want is something that drives like I am sitting in my chesterfield. You Yanks can look that up. A big wide seat (bring back the 60/40 split seats), 1 finger steering, zero road noise or road feel.

      And since we Boomers are the dominant generation regarding population and spending power, a car company should cater to us rather than to all those Gen X’ers living in our basements.

      • 0 avatar
        yamahog

        You know, a ton of people want that. I work in quantitative marketing and we hire a lot of programmers / economists / statisticians and all the younger people buy sensible cars. I only know of one person who has a fast car – an Evo Lancer. The vast majority of the people drive 10-15 year old midsize sedans until they start a family and then they buy a Ford/Toyota/Honda SUV.

        Obviously they don’t buy a lot of new cars. But when they do, they just want something that’s not going to be a hassle and something that’s going to be pleasant and plain.

        I have to believe that most of them would pay extra money for a quieter, softer, easier car. Some of them want AWD, others don’t. Some want ecoboost, others don’t care. What’s important is that Lincoln gets its name out there, that it’s perceived as a respectable thing and hard working people don’t feel opulent for getting it, but also feel like it’s worth it. And the advantage for Ford is that they grow the brand and start using it to get some money.

        There should be Fords that cost more than Lincolns and there should be Fords that are faster, and more tech laden than Lincolns. But the Lincoln should always be a nicer place to spend time on the freeway than a similar Ford.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Gen X’ers living in our basements.”

        You’re thinking of the Y or “Millenials”. Do you have 40yos living in your basement?

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          In 17 years, my girlfriend’s kid will be a 40 year old living in her basement, unless she disconnects the Internet so he can’t sit at home playing Warcraft every day.

          (Yep, it’s an issue.)

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Bare Naked Ladies took care of that for you.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Meh. I’d just drop the premium “Black Label” pretense altogether. Trying to out-German the German brands or out-quality Lexus is likely to be a failing waste of cash.

    I think Lincoln should aim to be around Acura-level or a Buick brand that doesn’t cater exclusively to the Red Hat Society.

    Cadillac should gun to be a combination of Land Rover, Genesis, and the Chrysler 300.

    One thing is, the two premium American brands need to get their sh*t together because Volvo and Jaguar look to be getting out of their dormant stages soon.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Ford Service writer: “Uh Sir, your muffler bearings need repacked with Cylon grease and that’ll run about 795$ plus disposal fees”. Lincoln Service writer: “Sir, you oil change and service are done, we ran it through the car wash and there’s a trash can in the vehicle pick-up area if you want throw that (slippery) cardboard floor mat away.” Lincoln just needs to finesse Black Label service.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    “All Black Label customers in NYC can take advantage of this service through April, as well as custom menu items from upscale restaurants across America.”

    “Jeeves, my good man, bring around the SPECIAL menu you gentlemen here at Applebees keep in the back, for I am a Lincoln owner.”

    Have you ever heard something as desperately try-hard while simultaneously pathetic? Is there anyone under, say, 80 who would be impressed by that? Or that thinks anything other than “did you rent it?” or “moonlighting Uber driver?”

  • avatar
    turf3

    What I think the Lincoln ought to be:

    No trucks.

    No compact cars.

    Take the last generation Town Car. Shorten the wheelbase and overhangs a bit, but don’t make the passenger compartment any smaller. Put better anti-roll bars, but don’t make the suspension jittery. If they still have recirculating ball steering with a mile of slop, replace that with rack and pinion without slop. Put some firm well-designed seats in there that you can sit in without having excruciating lower back pain after three hours driving, and cover them in better leather than the soft stuff that starts looking shabby in a couple years. Column shift. Minimal console. Split bench or bucket front seats, optional. Lincoln-specific switchgear and driver-contacted controls (not from the parts bins). No touchscreens. Good (means, quiet) mufflers combined with a powerful engine. Normal automatic trans (like three or four speeds, not one of the “I’m never in the right gear so I’m going to hunt all the time” nine speeders or whatever. Big tall tires to cut down road noise and jitter. Use well-proven components, not the latest computer-driven doohickey.

    Done. It won’t be trying to be German, nor will it be trying to appeal to 30-something wannabees with special barbershops (what the heck was all that about, anyway?). It will be appealing to middle aged people (you know, the ones with all the money) who would like to support American products but not at the cost of buying crap or driving a large floating mattress with only a remote connection to the road; but who also don’t agree that large luxury sedans need to have a ride that allows you to feel every tar strip on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “No trucks.”

      Game over. Trucks (if you include car-based “trucks”) are the future. What’s Lexus’s best-selling and fastest-growing model? The RX. BMW? The 3-series still sells best, but the X3’s got the growth. Audi? The Q5. You get the point.

      Also, there is nothing you can do, no matter how much suspension and steering magic you try to work, to make a Panther drive or feel like a modern car. There’s not remotely enough stiffness in the platform and the packaging is some of the worst that’s ever come out of Detroit. To build what you’re imagining, you’d be better off starting with a 2017 Continental.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Not necessarily a bad call, but how is that functionally different in the eyes of most people than the salesproof MKS?

    • 0 avatar
      Whatnext

      So in other words they should make the Chrysler 300?

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      AKA The return of the son of the Panther TownCar!

      Build it and they will come.

      Wouldn’t need to pay for expensive haircuts in pseudo-French hair salons if you put that kind of Lincoln on the road in 2018 (if I remember the D6 chassis arrival time correctly).

      Do it in two versions: the softish air suspension model for the “old farts” crowd, and a stiffer suspension, more V8 version for those who want a solid, comfortable car with power and handling, but without road noise and soft cornering.

      Be sure to put a bench seat in the front, with fold down arm rests for when riding solo or two up in the front seat, and a bench in the back…enough room for five adults comfortably for longer rides, six in a pinch. Don’t forget the trunk big enough to haul six bodies and enough luggage for a month long get away vacation.

      And don’t put a bunch of garish “modern” styling cues like a lot of LED on them…just remember how comfortable and convenient and functional the Lincoln and Mercury (and even Crown Vic Sport LX ???) Panthers of the mid to late 90’s were, before Ford started hoping the line would die.

      Make me WANT to trade in my old Panther on a new Lincoln. Comfort plus performance, with clean understated styling. It worked then and it could work now.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I want a new 1977 Continental.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d take a ’79 Mark V, despite it being the so pimpy that even pimps would look at it and be, like, “damn, that’s pimpy.”

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I was just browsing Mark Vs when I came back and saw this comment.

        This is the one I want.

        SO … BROUGHAM … (cries)

        http://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/dealer/lincoln/mk-5/1821196.html

        Incidentally, you want a ’77 or ’78, not a ’79, because you want it with the 460 for truly period-appropriate single-digit mpg.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    By 1983, the Germans and Swedes were already starting to eat Lincoln’s lunch. The downward spiral was already well underway, although the Swedes have since demonstrated that they couldn’t go the distance.

    The reality is that GM is trying to transform Cadillac into a viable global rival, and the effort isn’t gaining traction. Ford is wise to avoid imitating that.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I don’t know that Lincoln needs RWD or 550HP flat plane V8s. We live in an era of $80K 4 banger USDM BMWs and Teslas. Enthusiasts clinging to memories of byzantine ~400 HP V12s that couldn’t convincingly leave a V6 Camry from a stoplight need to let those dreams go. The people buying these cars simply don’t care.

    You know what Lincoln needs?

    The first and only time I saw the Fisker Karma on the street, I pretty much came in my pants. I didn’t care what propelled it, I didn’t care what problems it had, how much of a PITA it would be to get serviced, none of that. The car was beautiful in a classic, fundamental, visceral way that high shoulder lines and “flame surfacing” just can’t substitute for.

    Lincoln has a chance to have that kind of visual impact again, even with their limited resources. The Continental concept from the early 2000s is something that can be built from the Taurus platform today. It was butch and square jawed everywhere this Continental is rounded off and weak chinned. It would be a huge, huge, huge American middle finger to the Germans, rather than a pandering to them, and their currently boring, miserable “marketing research approved” designs. Mercedes is OK, but I would argue BMW and Audi are at all time lows with their design languages, with Audi in full on design paralysis. It would be a mistake for Lincoln to follow them down that path.

    Not to mention the Germans themselves have long moved away from that ideal. Nobody cares about V12 sedans except internet dweebs, very old men and Russian “oligarchs”. BMW’s big buzz is around its “i” subbrand. Porsche is readying its Tesla fighter and will probably follow by hybridizing much of the rest of its lineup. VWAG is doubling down on hybrids as its Dieselgate pennance. And I would argue that Tesla’s biggest asset is not its electric drivetrain, but the fact that the Model S is everything something like the S-Class isn’t- sexy, daring, forward looking/thinking, young etc. If Lincoln wants to connect with young people, it needs to be more Tesla (in a good way- they can keep the crap build quality and stupid gimmicks like the 20″ infotainment tablet) and less Mercedes, at least in the vein of what Mercedes was back when Lincoln actually mattered. Lincoln needs a clean sheet approach that only recalls old elements that are relevant to luxury buyers today. An 80s Town Car is pretty much the antithesis of that.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Have you seen the new Connie in person? It’s pretty darn sexy, if you ask me. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s a big hit, or just a hit. It looks good enough it’ll sell on that alone, but if the drive isn’t up to snuff…

      • 0 avatar
        Johnster

        The show car had possibilities, but the production version looks kind of meh. (And, like I said in a previous post, the styling was thoroughly trashed by Robert Cumberford in his “By Design” column in the most recent issue of “Automobile Magazine.”)

        http://www.automobilemag.com/news/by-design-lincoln-continental/

        It would be interesting to know what Sajeev Mehta thinks about eh new Conty. Maybe he can write about it in a future “Vellum Venom” column.

        • 0 avatar
          derekson

          Agreed with this opinion. The production version is just lacking enough of the aggressive details to lose the overall effect of the concept. It just looks like another bland premium but not luxury product from Lincoln.

          The lower trim interiors other than the top trim one also look low rent for a car that was aiming to reestablish Lincoln as a serious playing in the luxury market. It really doesn’t look any nicer than an Optima Limited inside until you get to the super expensive version.

      • 0 avatar
        Jagboi

        Have not seen on in person, but I looked at the webpage and the photo on the front page to me looked like they copied the front off a Jaguar XJ.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I haven’t yet, but if you saw it at NYIAS I wouldn’t count that either. “Show debut spec” is still a decent ways from street spec, and IMO the concept was too soft and “fake Bentleyesque” for me. If that’s the path they want to take they need to Americanize it the same way Chrysler did with the 300.

    • 0 avatar

      That grill on the Town Car looks like it was designed by a fifth grader.

      Seems to me I remember a Lincoln concept car in the early ’00s that harkened back very nicely to the Lincolns of the early-mid-’60s–the Lincolns that President Kennedy rode in.

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    Dammit, we were just discussing Stinkin’ Lincolns the other day.

    Guess that Cartier L may be in my driveway sooner than I’d thought.

    Then again, a clean Cypress Edition TC or even a Spinnaker will suffice (lol).

    Sigh. The agony you cause me, TTAC. Dam you.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Talk about human regression. An erstwhile auto company employs lifestyle coaches to make believe they really really like you, hoping to influence early adopters of what? Image truly has become everything. I guess Apple proved the premise and Tesla hammered it home.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      “I guess Apple proved the premise…”

      There’s a difference between what Apple does and what Ford, GM and their subsidiaries do. Apple starts with world-class products, and happens to also have great marketing. Great marketing alone will not convince people that turds are roses.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “Lincoln provided a really good haircut, a style session with LeBron James’ personal stylist, some hair products, and personalized stationery, as well as a trip around Manhattan in a Lincoln MKX.”

    If we just hire enough beautiful marketing people and invent new brands like “Black Label”, people will overlook the fact that our products are not competitive.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    Von

    It took a long time for Lincoln to slid into complete obscurity that it is today. It will take just as many to make it great again (for lack of a better phrase), but I’m afraid Ford doesn’t have the patience, resolve, and the willingness to spend the resources necessary to make that happen.

    Glittery celebs are great, but without great design, and great quality (both materials and build), it’s not going to do jack.

  • avatar
    James2

    Bark, your brother already wrote the definitive editorial on the kind of car Lincoln needs to build. I’d find the link for it –it’s somewhere within TTAC– but I’m too lazy.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    Lincoln’s problem is to anyone under 45 it’s the car fleets use to take you to airport. Nobody would actually buy one who isn’t a livery company.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Chrysler’s standings were even worse at one point, and look how they turned things around with cars like the 300M and LX 300. If Lincoln can come up with product that resonates with market demands at a decent level of value they can win. Chrysler did it, Hyundai/Kia did it, Audi did it, etc. It’s never too late for a turn around. All that matters is the product.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    The Lincoln version of the Mustang might actually be reality. Named Mark IX or Capri. With the same twin turbo V6 as Continental.
    As far as Towncar goes, if the Continental does well, a stretched version may be your next Towncar.
    Lets hope!

  • avatar

    This is probably a silly thing to say at a car blog, but I have to wonder if maybe focusing on the dealer experience over the cars isn’t a bad idea. The haircuts and menus are silly, and obviously you need a decent product to succeed.

    But Lexus and Infiniti sell a lot of cars and CUV’s that are basically nicely trimmed Toyotas and Nissans, with a much better buying and service experience. Most people don’t want/need a 550 hp coupe or an SUV with gullwing doors. They will pay extra to feel like they are being treated well and to for servicing their cars to be painless.

    Lincoln would be better served building their own version of the RX than the LFA.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    American made BOF, RWD, V-8 cars are dead. Dead as a dodo, gone like yesterday, they ain’t coming back. Crew cab pickups and SUVs replaced them. Lincolns like Bark talks about where just gussied up Fords with wretched gas mileage and handling. Lincoln needs to make vehicles that aren’t obviously badge-engineered Fords like they did with the Town Cars and Mark-whatever; a lot of Ford carry over but not too much ford carryover. The MKC and and the new Continental are moves in the right direction. Three crossovers and a couple of sedans should keep Lincoln n the running to be the American Lexus. For heaven’s sake stretch the Mustang platform (if possible) and make a four door Shelby. American badassery, indeed! Oh, and set up secret meetings with Volvo and have them make your front seats.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    In 1984 I was a young working professional starting out in the high flying semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley. I can assure you that no professionals in that part of the country aspired to owning a Town Car. Town Cars were those really nice taxi cabs you got in to get to and from the airport for your overseas meetings. They had all the brand cachet of a Checker Cab. In 1984 the aspirational car was German (MBZ or BMW) for those with their heads screwed on straight and Italian (Ferrari, Maserati or Lambo) for those who valued sex appeal over everything else. Those who could choose between sensible German cars or passionate Italian ones set their sites on a Porsche.

    Essentially nobody under 50 years old living and within 50 miles of either US coastline dreamed of having a Lincoln or Cadillac.

  • avatar
    MWolf

    I couldn’t agree more. The Continental is a great idea. Bring back the Mark cars (you know, like the Mark VIII). I personally don’t find any new Lincoln appealing, and I like(d) Lincoln! I haven’t seen anyone driving the new Navigator, either.

  • avatar

    A top luxury car needs suitably dignified style. The grill on the Town Car is idiotic ugly.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    “American made BOF, RWD, V-8 cars are dead. Dead as a dodo, gone like yesterday, they ain’t coming back.”

    Completely agree and Ford should not spend a fortune designing all new versions of one. Crossovers are where the sales are. Ford should just use their existing platforms and make standard all the options with one price for their sedans. Add a more comfortable suspension and additional sound deading with a Eco Boost V-6 as standard. Lincoln should model their buying and service experience after Lexus. Also make the price difference between a Lincoln sedan and a fully optioned Fusion no more than 5k. Ford should spend the money on the Navigator and give it the new aluminum body based on the new F-150. Also add a new luxury compact crossover fully optioned that would compete directly with the Enclave, CRV, and Rav4 but more upscale with heated and cooled power seats (make this no more than 5k more than the top CRV & Rav4).

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Bark,
    If one looks at product plans, Fords will all be some SUV or variant of the CD6 platform, and the ‘modified’ platforms are reserved for Lincoln.

    The future will be brighter, I promise.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    Not sure what the point of this article is.

    Lincoln is in the midst of the FIRST serious attempt to revive it during the last thirty years. Finally Ford is committed to introducing Lincolns that aren’t merely rebadged Fords with different grills and tail lights.

    We also need to remember that despite the spin by the media, over the past 12 years Cadihack has been in a revival that has resulteed in a sales slide even as it adds more models; the era of Arts and Scientology design has yet to beat 1990 sales volumes – sales volumes that offered no GMC truck with pimp decor packages.

    I think we need to give Lincoln 12 years on its revival to see if it is more successful than the disaster at Cadihack – a place where its two lowest priced products are eating each other’s lunch and where the luxury has disappeared in the look and the interior of the new Seedy Six has a touch cluster surround made of a cheap plastic that would embarrass Kia designers.

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