As Lincoln Struggles to Regain Its Sales Footing, the Aviator Can't Arrive Fast Enough

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
as lincoln struggles to regain its sales footing the aviator cant arrive fast enough

May brought happier sales number for Ford Motor Company compared to the lackluster month that preceded it, though the same can’t be said for the Lincoln brand. Despite a 0.7 percent overall sales gain last month, Ford’s 1 percent year-over-year uptick in volume was countered by Lincoln’s 5.2 percent sales drop.

It’s the 11th consecutive month of year-over-year volume loss for the premium brand once described as “resurgent.” True, Lincoln’s sailing in far calmer waters that it was a decade ago (or even a handful of years back), but its engines seem to be set to slow astern. After achieving a post-recession sales peak of 111,724 vehicles in 2016, Lincoln’s sales slipped ever so slightly in 2017. It’s now down 13.4 percent over the first 5 months of 2018.

Lincoln’s upcoming Aviator can’t arrive soon enough.

What’s to blame for the brick wall? Blame cars, for the most part. While the MKC and MKX crossovers, which rose to post-recession heights (for the MKX, anyway) last year, have since fallen by about 15 percent over last year’s year-to-date total, the new-for-2018 Navigator can’t fully replace the volume of the quickly sinking MKZ and Continental sedans. Its lofty MSRP can certainly make up a lot of the lost profit, however. The Ford Fusion-based MKZ sank 35.7 percent in May, year over year, with volume down 35.1 since the start of the year. The Continental’s fared even worse, down 37.8 percent in May and 25.1 percent over the first five months of 2018.

To sum up the brand’s product mix performance, sales of Lincoln cars fell 36.5 percent in May, and 32.5 percent since the start of the year. Thanks to the late-2017 addition of the Navigator, however, the brand’s SUVs had a good month — up 13.7 percent from the same month last year. Year-to-date figures show a small loss of 2.2 percent.

In just the past year, cars have gone from 37.7 percent of Lincoln’s lineup to barely over a quarter. May of 2016 showed the same mix as 2017. It’s no wonder the rumor of a returning (and retro-ified) Continental carries so much doubt. Over the same time frame, the Navigator, which spent much of the past decade in the doldrums awaiting execution or salvation, is now a driving force in the lineup. Just last May, only 8.3 percent of Lincoln’s volume could be attributed to Navigator. It’s now 18.8 percent.

Year over year, the Navigator’s May sales saw a 122 percent increase. That translates into an 85.8 percent year-to-date sales gain for the hulking three-row full-sizer. In fact, you’d have to travel back in time to 2007 to find a better sales month for the largest of the Lincolns.

Sometime next year, Lincoln plans to add a new model with an old nameplate, and it’s located in a sweet spot in the lineup. Smaller than the Navigator, but larger and more upscale than the MKX (refreshed and renamed Nautilus for 2019), the 2020 Aviator’s rear-drive architecture and premium looks should be the move that gets Lincoln running in the right direction again. It’s also possible buyers might take to the new MKC and MKX/Nautilus’ Continentalized face in greater numbers. With the Aviator in place, Lincoln could axe the MKZ and Continental entirely and still maintain its current volume.

[Images: Lincoln Motor Company]

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  • Bd2 Bd2 on Jun 06, 2018

    Like Audi and Acura (and increasingly Lexus), Lincoln sees its future in CUV/SUV sales (basically, only MB and BMW sell sedans in all 3 segments in sufficient volume). While the Aviator seems promising for Lincoln, the problem is that the MKC and MKX/Nautilus have under-performed compared to the competition (NX/RX, RDX/MDX, etc.). Expect the upcoming Cadillac XT4 to handily outsell the MKC, just as the XT5 handily outsells the MKX, but if Lincoln gives the next gen MKC and Nautilus, the full Nav/Av treatment, could turn those 2 around.

  • Edsel Maserati Edsel Maserati on Jun 06, 2018

    Nautilus? What a silly name. What a stupid name. What an UNDESIRABLE name.

  • Dukeisduke Years ago, I was driving southbound along North Central Expressway (south of Mockingbird Lane, for locals), and watched a tire and wheel fall out of the bed of a pickup (no tailgate), bounce along, then centerpunch the front end of a Honda Accord. It wasn't pretty.
  • Dukeisduke If these were built in the US, they'd probably be plagued with recalls, like everything else they make now. It's just as well they don't bring them here.I've owned one Ford, a '95 F-150 (drove it for 17 years and 214k miles) and it was fantastic. But you couldn't run fast enough to buy another Ford. Quality used to be Job 1; now it's an afterthought.
  • Dukeisduke "side-to-side taillights""Across-the-border" is the phrase you're looking for - it's what Ford called the taillights on the '67-'68 and '70-'71 Thunderbirds.
  • 28-Cars-Later Pretty sure its the next gen Fusion, which did manage 110K sales in 2020 USDM but that was roughly 66% less than 306K it sold in 2013. If 100K units is the expected high water mark I can understand why resources went elsewhere... though Mach-E can't even do half that and its hyped like the Second Coming so maybe there was a missed opportunity after all?
  • Kcflyer Laughing inside at the "300 mile range when it's warm" line. Can you imagine if ICE vehicles were this comprised? What a sick joke the green agenda is.