By on December 8, 2018

2019 Lincoln Nautilus, Image: Ford Motor Company

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.

2019 Lincoln Nautilus, Image: Ford Motor Company

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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29 Comments on “What a Difference a Grille Makes?...”

  • avatar

    I like the new grille, I hope Lincoln has finally found a grille they can settle on. This is the 4th or 5th grille that the MKX/Nautilus has had

  • avatar

    The new grill is a vast improvement, but this thing is still just a
    gussied-up Ford Edge. Why spend the extra coin? I was thinking of
    buying an edge, but it’s no longer available with a V6. That turbo
    2 litre is a non-starter for me. Unless Ford wants to put a 250k mile
    warranty on the engine …

  • avatar

    I noticed that the sales were up, too. I wondered why…it couldn’t just be the grill and the name. I guess it was.

    Automakers need to remember two important things a customer may not say in focus groups, but they want:

    1) A nice face. The previous grill would have kept me from looking at a Lincoln just like it does for any Toyota, Lexus, or the upcoming 2020 HD Silverado.

    2) A name you can remember. I had dubbed the previous Lincoln model line the MK-Huh? I’m a car guy and couldn’t distinguish from memory the X from the C, S, T, or Z.

    I have high hopes for the upcoming Aviator. A proper grill, attractive overall design, a banging interior, and a name easily recalled.

    • 0 avatar

      The name is really important for American cars because it differentiates from the German alpha-numeric gibberish that used to mean something but no longer does.

      A friend had a MKZ and held onto the older model with the 1960s Continental grille rather than buy a baleen whale grille later model. He also went to the trouble to pry off the MKZ plate and replaced it with a custom-made “Mickey-Z” plate. He now has two kids and is looking at the Nautilus – it’s the new family station wagon, replacing the minivan.

  • avatar

    Style counts. Who’da thunk?

  • avatar

    It’s not the looks. Otherwise the Lexus RX would never sell. (My parents are proof, having just taken delivery of a new ES…)

  • avatar

    There’s a lot of value in the name, and I think that with Nautilus, Aviator, Navigator, and upcoming Corsair, Lincoln finally has a naming convention that is unique, classy, and while perhaps not immediately identifiable (in terms of placement in the hierarchy), I don’t think that much matters.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the name has a bigger impact than we’d like to think. Lincolns are also getting better looking and receiving better press. It’s still going to be a niche brand, but I like where they’re heading.

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed. I’ve been a Lincoln fan longer than I have been able to drive. Many of those years were trying…..

        The direction of design has improved as has quality. The interiors in the new models is incredible. I’m glad I can now speak about my beloved Lincolns without having to be ashamed.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, must be why the Continental has been such a sales “success” for Lincoln.

  • avatar

    From the article, “Of course, one month (mouth) does not a trend make.”

    Fixed that for you.

    I’m still hanging on to some of my F shares, please, marry VW ASAP, cut your losses in the EU, and ship all of the Aviators and Nautilus (Nautilui?) you possibly can before gas prices start to rise again.

  • avatar

    I am so happy we finally have a new Lincoln dealer here in Memphis again, even if its small and shares lot space with Acura. It makes me wonder if that’s what helped the sales increase. We have been without a Lincoln dealer here in Memphis for several years which is kinda sad because Shilling Lincoln Mercury used to be such a prominent local dealer. Anyone else on here not have a Lincoln dealer in their area? It’s kinda hard to sell cars to customers that cant buy your car locally.

    Genesis has the same problem, Hyundai royally screwed that up! There were two H dealers selling Genesis, But that’s no more. So no sales here. It seems to be a nationwide problem. no wonder Genesis sales are in the toilet. The lack of SUVs only exacerbates the issue (I know theyre in the pipeline).

    • 0 avatar

      My area (which is economically thriving and has been for years) lost our Lincoln dealer at the height of the great recession. it was a crappy dealership in a bad location, so no great loss.

      The other Ford store, which was much larger, is just putting the finishing touches on a big new building and picked up Lincoln a couple months ago and so far seem to be doing well with it. They’re devoting road facing space to their Lincoln inventory and it seems to be turning over well. When I talk to them, they seem to be very excited about the brand and I’m seeing more of them on the streets.

      They did say that Ford required a significant investment for them to pick up the brand.

    • 0 avatar

      Only around 400 dealerships that sold the G80 (far fewer sold the G90) are going ahead w/ a Genesis franchise (starting w/ the 2019MY, only licensed Genesis stores will be selling Genesis models)

      There are still a # of states where Genesis is still working out licensing/franchise issues.

  • avatar

    Those 20″ pinwheels are an insult to this beautiful car, clown shoes with a nice suit.

  • avatar

    At SF auto show I could not tell difference between MKZ and Continental. I actually thought Lincoln put two MKZs on the floor until I noticed rear ends are different. I own Fusion and regarding MKZ interior it looks very familiar to me and not “luxury” enough. Newer Lincolns have much better interiors. Regarding new grill and how it changes perception of the car – while walking on the street I saw Audi passing by and only when I paid attention to details it dawned to me that it was MKZ with the new grill. New grill manages MKZ to look absolutely different from one with previous grill, more upscale I would say. Same applies to MKX – it looks more classy now. Not my cup of tea though.

  • avatar

    Changing the name from MKwhatever to Nautilus probably helped quite a bit, too.
    The buyers are probably unaware that a Nautilus is actually a pelagic marine mollusc. And while the Lincoln Nautilus has a conventional internal-combustion piston engine, the original Nautilus is jet-propelled.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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