By on May 1, 2018

1988 Lincoln Town Car Rear End, Images: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta

Domestically, Lincoln’s passenger car sales figures provide ample evidence of two things: Either sedans aren’t needed in the premium marque’s lineup, or something drastic need to happen to keep them alive.

We’ve covered the brand’s sedan woes before, but Ford’s decision to axe all but the Mustang in its passenger car stable adds new urgency to Lincoln’s situation. The MKZ is, well, old, albeit refreshed, and the Continental sells less often than the Cadillac CT6 — hardly a line-up-around-the-block model in its own right.

What in the name of Givenchy, Cartier, Pucci, and Blass is to be done about this?

Ford claims it’s “committed” to its current two-car lineup, but this doesn’t exactly give anyone confidence that the brand’s stable won’t go the way of the Blue Oval’s. Hell, it could be worse than that, as Ford at least plans to keep the Mustang alive.

The MKZ could hang around for as long as its Fusion platform mate, but no longer. The Continental? The future Lincoln’s flagship is the subject of much speculation, and perhaps a retro-themed design revamp could budge the sales needle, but we’re talking about a slow seller that only bowed in late 2016. Ford’s in money saving mode here.

Given its growing popularity in China, Lincoln’s passenger car space appears ripe for green vehicles — perhaps ones greener than the hybrid variants planned for all of the brand’s models by 2022. While consumer demand for premium fully electric vehicles remains to be seen in the U.S., an EV carrying the Lincoln badge would likely prove a hit in the Orient.

And what about a plug-in hybrid sports coupe or sedan? Ford’s already planning a hybrid version of the Mustang, and the coming decade could see an electric version of its perennial pony car. Enthusiasts have long called for a Mustang-based Lincoln that resurrects the “Mark” series.

If given free rein over Ford Motor Company’s product planning, where would you take the Lincoln brand? Forget about crossovers and SUVs — those are already well looked after. Your job is to plan the future of Lincoln cars. What would they be?

[Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/TTAC]

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62 Comments on “QOTD: Should Lincoln Give up on Cars, or Tell Ford to Kiss Its Blass?...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    As much as I’d love to see something like a Mustang-based Mark coupe, it ain’t happening. The only luxury brands that are selling cars are the ones that were selling decent ones before the whole CUV/SUV madness hit. Lincoln’s late to that game, and I think it’s already over.

    This brand is all CUV/SUV now. It doesn’t really have anything else. Just let the sedans die and roll with the crossovers.

    I bet they could sell a ton of upscale trucks, though.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Lincoln’s stated commitment to the MKZ and the Continental has made me wonder if Ford Motors’ overall plan is to only sell upscale sedans that have greater profitability. Let the Japanese mfrs chase the thin margins with fleets and mass market sedan buyers while Lincoln makes an effort to fatten their margins with higher end models sold to people who aren’t chasing the lowest sticker price. This is aided by dropping the Fusion which approaches the MKZ in Platinum trim (since limiting the Fusion trim would never fly with Ford dealers).

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Here’s the problem, though: if the current Fusion-based sedans aren’t selling (a fact which, in my opinion, has a lot to do with them being Fusion-based sedans), why would they sell better in the future?

        And perhaps they could do some rear-drive sedans based on the much-ballyhooed new architecture, but if Lincoln’s not selling many sedans as it is, and the segment is going crossover-nutty, why spend the money to enter a market that’s shrinking as it is?

        I think Lincoln tried to re-enter the sedan game in a half-a**ed way, and failed at it. I don’t see them getting back in. I bet they just ride the MKZ and Conti until they both die.

        • 0 avatar
          ClutchCarGo

          The issue isn’t that Fusion-based sedans aren’t selling as much as it is that the margin isn’t there on the ones that they are selling. It’s true that if they want to sell the MKZ and Conti that they’ll have to improve quality and content, but it could be worth it if the margins are better. However, they’ll have to be competitive with the likes of Acura and Infiniti in order to make sense of it, and I don’t know if they’re willing to make the necessary investment to get there.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-autos-sales/instead-of-spring-bounce-a-thud-for-u-s-april-auto-sales-idUSKBN1I23VN

            Things are slowing down and Ford carsales as well.

          • 0 avatar
            conundrum

            Apparently two fewer selling days in April this year compared to last. Everyone was calling April a likely “slow” month because of that all last week.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “As much as I’d love to see something like a Mustang-based Mark coupe, it ain’t happening.”

      If Ford can make money on the OG Mustang at its current transaction prices and volumes then they can make money with a sugar-frosted Lincoln Mustang.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’d give Lincoln one car.

    Mustang-based coupe and sedan. Make it look like a cross-up between the current Continental, the RR Ghost/Wraith, and the Polestar 1. 330hp 2.7T as standard, 450hp 3.5T available, and 10A across the board. No “track” options, but give it a standard LSD and a decent final drive (3.55?).

    Kit it up with the nice seats, nice stereo, real wood/aluminum, and come up with some cool (slightly retro) themes for the Black Label ones.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    The Lincoln cars are toast. They just don’t want to talk sales any more then they already have.

    The only option is if FoMoCo decides to import the Chinese Lincoln to fill the gap.

    Other then that, no cars for Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Jim HACKett is going to destroy Ford Motor Company & its Lincoln division.

      Ford could not have picked a worst CEO if they had intentionally tried to do so.

      The dude is fruit loops-level insane.

      Put him in a padded room with a 144-count box of Crayolas and get a real CEO with relevant automotive manufacturing experience before its too late.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    Stretch the Mustang, add two suicide doors, and call it Lincoln Cougar. Throw in the new V6 diesel for good measure.

    • 0 avatar
      Lynchenstein

      I was thinking something similar. Give Ford ALL the trucks and crossovers it can handle. Bring back Mercury for all things NOT truck. Once upon a time the Mercury Cougar was a muscle car, so maybe Mercury could have all the cars. That lets Lincoln have luxury versions of whatever it wants. The only problem: Mustang is a Ford, not a Mercury. Unless…Mercury Mustang?

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      Stretch the Mustang, offer three different big chrome grilles on it like the Chrysler 300, cover the plastic interior panels with something leather-esque, make the 4-banger Ecoboost standard, and make a Coyote with a quiet exhaust the upscale engine choice. Profit.

  • avatar
    d4rksabre

    Lincoln cars could be saved if they had the stones to design something brave and then actually produce it. They came so close with the Continental before they lost their nerve and turned out a rental car.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    Mount the spare upright behind the trunk.

  • avatar
    agent534

    Remember the Lincoln Blackwood? The truck with a trunk that everyone thought was supposed to be a truck and not the Town Car replacement they were aiming for?

    Do a similar concept, but done right to make it seem more car like and less like a base truck. Seems a body on frame based off the F150 could go a long way. Or off the new Ranger platform if the proportions there work easier.

  • avatar
    RSF

    I still think the Lincoln Continental needs to be Ford’s challenger to Tesla.

    • 0 avatar
      Lynchenstein

      Make it rocket powered and call it the Lincoln Intercontinental.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Nice Lincoln. Does it have the ICBM package?

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Give it multiple detachable units and call it the “MIRV Edition.”

        • 0 avatar
          CaddyDaddy

          Lincoln with ICBM package, yes this is already in the works. Its what got the N Koreans all excited about their new position to open up to Trump and the South. They Lincoln will be the new dignatary staff car for the North’s elite,

          Don’t you remember Sr.’s Funeral Car?? It was a Lincoln!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Caddy

            The limos were Kim il-Sung’s, not Kim Jong-il’s who was more into Mercedes (although Kim il-Sung’s 560SEL is buried with him).

            thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1979-lincoln-continental-town-car/#comment-3562106

            Neat:

            caranddriver.com/features/cars-from-north-korea-features

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Take the Continental, add one foot of metal between the leading edge of the front door and the back edge of the front wheel arch, and you’re good. That should be all they need; the MKZ looks far too cheap inside with no real design going on to be a luxury car.

  • avatar
    Tennessee_Speed

    Since Cadillac won’t build them, Lincoln should purchase the rights from GM to produce the Lincoln Elmiraj & Escala on a modified Mustang platform. Just put a Lincoln grill on the cars and they would be a smashing sales success.

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    Ford has more important things to do. Like buying a train station. Meanwhile, Toyota is laughing its ass off.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Laughing all the way to the rental counter to dispose of a few more Corolla and Camrys, and wishing they had a cash cow like F-150.

      But when GM and Ford propped up car sales with rental fleets, its stupid and bad and awful and terrible and short-sighted. Toyota and Nissan do it, its wonderful because it proves how great their cars are. I love how the narrative changes when the manufacturer’s country of origin changes. Toyota can’t build an F-150, so it dumps Camrys and Corollas into rental fleets. But that isn’t bad, no, its smart. For some reason. And dumping unprofitable, slow-selling cars is stupid, because they can never, ever, EVER reintroduce a car here again. Never. Not the new Fiesta and non-Activ Focus, not the Chinese Taurus, nope. Its impossible, there’s no turning back. Ever.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        “But when GM and Ford propped up car sales with rental fleets, its stupid and bad and awful and terrible and short-sighted. Toyota and Nissan do it, its wonderful because it proves how great their cars are. I love how the narrative changes when the manufacturer’s country of origin changes”

        God you are bitter…

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        “Toyota can’t build an F-150”

        Are you saying that Ford is better run, more profitable, has better engineering chops and outsells Toyota? Because I’m pretty sure Dearborn would love to switch places with Toyota if given the chance.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        John Tauros
        What an inane comment! Ford is becoming a one trick pony, mate.

        How profitable is the F Series compared to the other pickup manufacturers?

        Ford even stated that commodity prices are affecting it’s bottom line. Now what commodity has shifted higher, quicker than any other commodity of late? Iron ore?

        Have you ever driven one of those new aluminium wunder trucks? My BT50 drives better. The interior of my BT50 makes the F-150 look like a Chinese import pickup we used to get over a decade ago.

        The Expedition with the EcoThirst I had was even worse than the F-150. It had a 1970s British quality interior and handled worse than my 1969 Datsun pickup I owned. It was only good on pool table smooth surfaces. It was a turd on wheels. It had fantastic acceleration for a heavy vehicle, but it chewed fuel quicker than a thirsty camel.

        Ford is building cheap and charging way too much for starters.

        Its good to be a fan of a product, but you are no different than a Tesla groupie.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      @stars9texashockey

      April sales
      Yaris down 36%
      Corolla down 17%
      Camry down 5%
      Prius family down 24%

      Toyota is laughing so hard it Hertz.

  • avatar

    Kill the brand and enjoy the cost savings.

    • 0 avatar

      I would rather lay off everyone in US including CEO and outsource all jobs to India. Or maybe just sell Ford to Tata and make quick bucks like Eaton did with Chrysler. Investors will be happy. LR and Jaguar doing goof and missing Ford so much.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Give up on cars? Lincoln should just give up period. They are just Fords with a different badge. At this point I just see them as a trim level. I’m all for more choices but unless there is a major difference or unique selling point, IE: only the Lincoln comes with AWD or Hybrid power, then what is the point? Ford offers plenty of up market options so I fail to see what Lincoln brings to the table. A better dealership experience? Thicker floor mats? Light wood interiors? If they are meant to be a luxury brand then they need a massive step up plus Ford needs to scale back on the fancy stuff to make room.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      You can get a Continental with AWD and the twin turbo V-6. With concierge service (pick-up and drop-off service). Quiet as a tomb, quick, but as pricey as an E-class, or an LS. My mom’s got one and it lopks damn good. Dad’s got a Suburban LTZ. Their golf cart gets driven more than their vehicles.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m sad, because I think the Continental has styling in spades, but it needs to go. They’re losing money on it. So does the MKZ.

    But, yeah, kill off the cars. They can’t keep the Navigator on the lots, the Aviator looks handsome and poised to do well, and I like what happened to the Nautilus (formerly MKX). Ideally, Lincoln will make the MKC (or its renamed replacement) a more substantial, luxurious small crossover, and then have a full lineup of popular cars.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Full size rear wheel drive sedan. This is what should be happening at Ford to replace the Taurus. Shared chassis luxury version at Lincoln.
    Should Lincoln give up on cars. No.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    If I were running Ford I’d offer to give away 51% of Lincoln to a premium car maker like Jaguar or Volvo. In return the new parent would invest in a range of 5 new models. A new Navigator, a mid size SUV, a smaller SUV and then a Jaguar XJ type of car and an electric model. I’d give the new parent access to the Ford parts bin where they wanted it on a cost plus basis but generally expect the new parent to use their own parts. Design would be US led.

    This would be a very clever move. Jaguar or Volvo would be great stable mates for Lincoln. They have existing models that could become Lincoln models quickly, but because they understand the market they wouldn’t simply rebadge existing models. Both brands also have international dealers and could quickly take Iincoln global either using the Lincoln brand or ravaged as something else. E.g if Jaguar bought it A more generic looking Lincoln could easily become Daimler.

    If all went to plan Ford could either sell up or maintain their stake but would have turned dimishing brand into a brand with real potential.

    Yes it’s PAG all over again but the logic was right it’s just Ford didn’t have the management to execute it

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Time for the Tesla fighters. Dip a toe with a PHEV as a base model and then go full hog with a pure EV. Make it look like something American from the future. Give it a name. I think it would do well.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d say it should be called “Futura,” but then it’d end up as the Batmobile.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln_Futura

      (Seriously, that’s a good idea.)

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Lincoln can make all the SUVs it wants, the new big one that that actor drives off the ferry is really nice. But, if they want to make a car, they should make one car only, and it has to be a kick-ass big-power, big presence beast.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Yes, Lincoln should give up on cars and so should Cadillac. If luxury cars come back then form a venture with a foreign luxury brand. I don’t see cars coming back as the must have vehicle anytime soon.

  • avatar
    delerium75

    In order to justify where I’d go with Lincoln, lets look at where things were and where they’re going. Big expensive coupes are dead…so no rehash of a Mark coupe…they’re done, the market has spoken. Big expensive sedans are dying as well. The Connie and CT6s aren’t exactly flying off lots, in part because I think they’re overpriced, in part because of the shift in the market to SUVs and my 3rd reason is probably the most important: the American market simply doesn’t want expensive American sedans anymore. You get far more car and a far more *practical* car moving up to a Navigator or even the upcoming Aviator than sticking with a Connie. I think sales numbers bear out that there is a ceiling to what Lincoln and Cadillac can charge for a sedan…no matter how well executed. The imported competition simply has far more cachet over 60-70K+.

    Having said all that, I’d probably offer 1 well-sized Mustang based sedan, available AWD across the board. I’d also price them aggressively, starting around 40K and probably topping out around 55-60K and make it a looker…give people a reason to want to look at it. I strongly think that keep sedan sales alive, they need to approach them and their pricing as entry level Lincolns. Leave the higher priced vehicles to the SUVs.

  • avatar
    hpycamper

    Use the Mustang base to make a variety of vehicles with distinctive adult styling. Coupes, converts, Nomad style wagons,etc.,maybe even a Ranchero something. No, they won’t sell mass quantities, but if done thoughtfully, they may do OK.
    And NO, coupes, converts aren’t DONE. See BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar.

  • avatar
    lne937s

    People in the are not willing to pay enough for mass market cars to make European market cars profitable. Ford keeping cars in Europe allows those cars to go up market. Keeping Lincoln lets them sell European-focused cars here at a premium price point, thus making them profitable.

  • avatar
    lne937s

    People in US the are not willing to pay enough for mass market cars to make European market cars profitable. Ford keeping cars in Europe allows those cars to go up market. Keeping Lincoln lets them sell European-focused cars here at a premium price point, thus making them profitable.

  • avatar
    Oldschool

    I think the number ONE problem on why the Lincoln Continental sales haven’t truly taken off, is styling. It’s a mishmash if other luxury cars, including a hint of Kia/Jag in the grill which doesn’t do the car justice.

    If any of you have ever experienced owning a 60’s Lincoln Continental like I have (especially the 61-65’s) you know how over built, elegant and classy those cars were. I mean they are probably one of the most solid, highest quality luxury cars ever made.

    At the time Ford was about to kill the Lincoln brand in 1960, but it got a second chance due to the man named Elwood Engel, the stylist that gave the new 61 Conti at the time, it’s own identity. The 61 Conti was truly a departure from what came before it, and it instantly made everything else at the time look outdated.

    Well, here we are again, in the same predicament, but under slightly different circumstances, and Lincoln still hasn’t done anything to its cars that make them revolutionary or distinctive. And the company wonders why nobody is buying their cars. You know owning luxury vehicle isn’t all about fancy tech features, but road presence and styling.

    Back in 61, it was either go big in terms of “give it your all and do whatever it takes to build the finest luxury vehicle you can make at a profit” (which they did) or go under and everyone in the division lose their jobs and it’s heritage along with it.

    Nobody takes Lincoln seriously, not even buyers. What’s sad is that the Continental has a pretty decent quality interior, but it’s still rather small, and the car rides too stiff for most Lincoln buyers. I drove a 17 model, and because of the 20 inch wheels you could feel the small vibrations and road imperfections entering the cabin. Totally unacceptable for a luxury sedan.

    One last thing, because sedan sells are suffering badly, it just reinforces the aspect of how much styling matters in this category. A CUV will never be sexy or have the same kind of “cool” factor like a sporty coupe or an elegant sedan does, so having a car that is absolutely beautiful and stunning to look at is even more important in order to sell them, if not, buyers will drift away. Just how Cadillac never brought the gorgeous Ciel concept to production. Imagine if they did though!!!??? It would have been an instant modern classic and would have sold by the boat load.

    But they didn’t and now both Caddy and Linky are dumbfounded on why hardly anyone wants their products. Half ass crap doesn’t cut in the fiercely competitive auto industry and if Lincoln still wants to sell a sedan, then give it the same urgency, top notch quality, and full commitment like the brand did with the 61 Continental.

    • 0 avatar
      delerium75

      I totally understand what you’re saying regarding styling. Style matters, certainly, and so does substance in the luxury category. But say Cadillac did build a production version of the Ciel. Most likely it would be priced over 100K, probably 120K+ to do it well. It would have been a watershed for style, I agree. But realistically, it maybe would have sold the first year but then the numbers would likely fall off a cliff.

      Combined, the S-class, 7-series and A8 hit about 28-29K sales in the US with the S-class taking the lead at just under 16K. These numbers are all shrinking year over year. The A8 sold just over 3100 units in 2017. What kind of numbers would a 120K+ Cadillac rake in? I would guess a couple thousand, absolute tops, with numbers declining after that.

      The problem is that even the uber-sedans have not been immune to the shift to SUVs. Why is BMW coming out with an X7? Because they can likely sell more of those than the 9200 7-series they sold in 2017. Why is there a Lamborghini SUV again? Because it will grow sales. For all intents and purposes, the ’61 Continental’s replacement *is* the Navigator. What the public demands and what actually sells are SUVs…the market for sedans has fundamentally changed.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The link I have below explains it all. Is Lincoln another Caddy? Will Ford throw good money after bad at Lincoln?

    The Germans prestige marques are making far better headway in the current vehicle market, not just in the USA, but globally.

    The Big 3 are overly institutionalised, slow to respond and are not just getting their products correct. Vehicle quality needs to improve.

    We have some here on TTAC and Trump’s band of cling’ons blaming the world for the poor performance of US exports (Big 3) into other countries. The odd think is BMW and Mercedes Benz are the US’es most valuable vehicle exporters.

    Why?

    Do the commenters who complain the world is not fair on the US realise that all countries out there trade in motor vehicles? Why is it the US is having issue of the world is against them?

    Again, I do believe it comes down to the Big 3 are not able to adjust to the world. Even in the US the current adjustment of Ford and FCA in cars/sedans is evidence that the US isn’t competitive. To improve competitiveness you need to compete, a 25% import tariff is not competing, along with different regulations.

    The US really needs to restructure how it manages it’s vehicle industry. A restructure is necessary. I can see two ways to fix the problem.

    1. Adopt a slow transition of a couple decades or so to make the Big 3 more competitive. This is way too slow in the rapidly changing auto world. or,

    2. Run in parallel a changeover to the regulations for 3 years (until the current design cycle is complete) that it’s competitors use (UNECE) with an axing of the chicken tax in a decade.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-01/mercedes-gains-lincoln-lags-amid-breathtaking-shift-to-suvs

  • avatar
    Oldschool

    How come we have all the answers and common sense fixes, yet the executives somehow don’t?

    It’s really not that hard to do. Lincoln and Cadillac were able to build beautiful high quality, comfy, powerful cars in the 60’s, yet the companies today are run by non car guys that have no clue how to operate the brands.

    I believe this is another huge issue on why Lincoln and Cad hasn’t brought out truly groundbreaking vehicles that is unique, special and nothing like you’ve ever seen before.

  • avatar
    skor

    Lincoln lost its last clue years ago. Cars that are tarted up family sedans. Model names that look like Welch curse words. Probably too far gone to fix at this point. May as well take it out back and put a bullet in its head.

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