What a Difference a Grille Makes?

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 [s]whale[/s] 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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  • 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.

  • 2ACL What tickles me is that the Bronco looks the business with virtually none of the black plastic cladding many less capable crossovers use.
  • IBx1 For all this time with the hellcat engine, everything they made was pathetic automatic scum save for the Challenger. A manual Durango, Grand Cherokee, Charger, 300C, et al would have been the real last gasp for driving enthusiasts. As it is, the party is long over.
  • MaintenanceCosts The sweet spot of this generation isn't made anymore: the SRT 392. The Scat Pack is more or less filling the same space but it lacks a lot of the goodies, including SRT suspension, brakes, and seats. The Hellcat is too much and isn't available with a manual anymore.
  • Arthur Dailey I am normally a fan of Exner's designs but by this time the front end on the Stutz like most of the rest of the vehicle is a laughable monstrosity of gauche. The interior finishes suit the rest of the vehicle. Corey please put this series out of its misery. This is one vehicle manufacturer best left on the scrap heap of history.
  • Art Vandelay I always thought what my Challenger really needed was a convertible top to make it heavier and make visability worse.