What a Difference a Grille Makes?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
what a difference a grille makes

Perusing sales data for the month of November, something popped out from the always entertaining Ford Motor Company file. While the company as a whole saw its volume fall 6.9 percent, year over year, last month, Lincoln finished November on a high note — something it hasn’t seen much of this year, Navigator sales notwithstanding.

Compared to the Ford brand’s 7.3 percent YoY drop, the Lincoln brand saw a 3 percent increase. Still down since the start of the year (a trait it shares with the Blue Oval brand), Lincoln’s November sales increase wasn’t just fueled by the hulking Navigator. A new nameplate appeared last month, tacked onto a pre-existing vehicle. Were buyers holding out for a new grille?

That nameplate would be Nautilus, the steampunk-sounding moniker applied to what was once the MKX for the 2019 model year.

Combined Nautilus and MKX sales last month rose 20.4 percent, year over year. That’s no statistical fluke, either — sales in November 2017 were in line with the other months of that strong-selling year, which proved the MKX’s best since 2007. With 3,155 vehicles moved last month, November was the model’s best month since December 2016 (which was a barn-burner of a sales month for almost all brands).

For 2019, the renamed model adopts a Continental-inspired corporate grille, a new base engine, plus a helping of new content and revamped Black Label themes. Gone is the split whale waterfall grille that dates back, in revised form, to the first-generation model’s 2011 refresh. The theme carried over to the second-gen model in 2016.

Of course, one month does not a trend make. Who knows what some Lincoln dealers did to move those 2018 MKX models off the lot (the brand’s consumer site shows an extra $500 in customer cash for buyers and lessees starting in early November — pretty small potatoes). Regardless, the showing is notable given the MKX’s rocky year, with company execs no doubt hoping the new face will continue turning new heads and opening new wallets.

Year-to-date sales are still down 10.1 percent, while the brand itself is down 8.4 percent.

Elsewhere in the lineup, the compact MKC, which arrived this summer with a similarly refreshed look, posted an 11.1 percent year-over-year sales increase, though it’s not a marked departure from previous months. Through the end of November, MKC sales are down 4.4 percent. Lincoln’s sedans didn’t reverse their downward sales trajectory — a fact that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

As for the range-topping margin king (the Navigator), Lincoln’s largest ute saw sales stats catch up to it. The redesigned model went on sale in November 2017, so increases of the triple-digit percentage variety are now a thing of the past. Still, the model’s continuing to gain ground, with last month’s sales up 27.3 percent.

Sprucing up the MKX into the Nautilus was something of an afterthought compared to the late-2018 introduction of the Navigator and the looming release of the all-important Aviator, Lincoln’s biggest-ticket items and the keys to its future success. Still, if the Nautilus sales bump continues, it goes to show that paying even a little bit of attention to a denizen of the crossover realm can pay off.

[Images: Lincoln Motor Company]

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2 of 29 comments
  • EBFlex EBFlex on Dec 09, 2018

    Another generic SUV in a sea of generic SUVs. This MKEdge does nothing to set itself apart from everyone else. Since Lincoln's are just tarted up Fords, you'd think Lincoln would lower the price considerably as a way to get people into the showroom. People respond very well getting a good price. You can't just expect people to pay top end market prices for near-luxury vehicles when there are far better and established marques out there.

  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Dec 10, 2018

    The vehicle at the top is one of the nicer looking Kias I have seen. Oh wait, they just aped the Kia grill and made it taller. Never mind. I have to say the new grill is an order of magnitude better looking than the old one.

  • Cprescott Union workers are only concerned about themselves. They don't care who else gets hurt when they throw a tantrum, er, strike.
  • SCE to AUX Not sure where that photo came from, but it wasn't Canada.
  • Arthur Dailey Very few probably share my view, but I believe that the T-roof option is well worth that price.Bring back T-Tops!!!!!!!!
  • Arthur Dailey Referred to in the day as a 'mini-Corvette'.
  • MaintenanceCosts The 3rd gen acquired an unshakable reputation as a mullet-mobile, but the truth is it was one of the best car designs of the '80s, full stop. It's a beautiful car, especially in late-'80s IROC guise, which gave it the best-looking body kit bits in body color. These late RSs look heavy and all the scoops look silly.