What Will Lincoln Look Like in 2020?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
what will lincoln look like in 2020

Lincoln, eager to avoid the fate of Mercury, has spent years attempting to turn itself around. It’s a slow-and-steady kind of race. Rather than try to dazzle the public with a slick marketing campaign (confusing, perhaps – Ed.), Lincoln’s sticking to the fundamentals. Bludgeoned by the Great Recession, Lincoln’s sales actually began their steady decline in 2004, though by that time it had been losing market share for almost a decade.

Fortunately, things improved. While still far removed from its former strength, Lincoln’s annual domestic volume has stabilized at just above 100,000 units. Chasing sales will always be important for an automaker, but it’s not the main focus for Ford’s luxury nameplate. The brand believes that, if it can improve as a premium marque, volume will follow.

Even if you’re not a fan of its products, you have to admit that its newest models are a breath of fresh air. The Aviator (below) may not have the powertrain options of the MKT (above), but it’s better in every other conceivable way. You don’t even need to drive them; one can simply look at them side by side and sense there’s more going on with the Aviator.

The Corsair seems as though it will be a similar story. Replacing the MKC, the new crossover emits a sense of class its predecessor lacked. While examining the compact newcomer at the New York Auto Show, a Lincoln rep almost shuddered when we referenced the MKC — almost as if the brand was ashamed of it. However, those older vehicles were still quiet and comfortable automobiles, two qualities the brand isn’t willing to toss into the garbage for the sake of added performance. Comfort is king at Lincoln, and the brand wants to emphasize its strengths.

“It appears they’ve accepted who they are,” Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting at LMC Automotive, said in a recent interview with Automotive News. “They’re not a volume premium brand that’s going to be everything for everyone. That’s OK; you don’t have to be everything to everyone to still be successful.”

Lincoln’s own design director, David Woodhouse, did nothing to refute that assertion. “It’s more about seduction than attack,” he said.

The brand’s new aviation/nautical theme is meant to remind customers of quiet and comfortable modes of upscale travel. But it also allows the company to abandon its failed alphanumeric naming strategy, which we always assumed was a foolish attempt to make it seem more German or Japanese. We couldn’t be happier with the change.

Lincoln chief Joy Falotico, who also broke things down for Automotive News, believes that the path ahead won’t include shortcuts or an emphasis on fleet sales. Falotico suggests that Lincoln should serve as a boutique brand, rather than a “luxury shopping mall” (poor Mark Fields), while admitting that volume is important. As the brand struggles to put down roots in China, Falotico claims the current strategy involves encouraging market growth “in a healthy way.”

By the end of this year, Lincoln will have four new utility vehicles on the market wearing updated (and much improved) sheet metal. Beyond that, Falotico said the brand will focus on gradually electrifying the lineup and ensuring customers don’t lose interest. “We’ve had to redo our whole philosophy of the cycle plan and add in an experience and service cycle plan and smaller packages that give you something new to show the customer,” she said. “They’re very sensitive to the freshness of the product.”

While most of what that means in terms of product is supposed to remain a mystery, Falotico did say the brand will provide extra performance packages and special editions. We also know that hybridization will begin creeping in as an option for most models (a plug-in Corsair follows the model’s launch by a year or less, with a potential EV on the horizon) and extra-premium variants are at least under development. It’s impossible to say if the strategy will pan out as desired, though it does look like the right play: a gentle rebranding aimed at gaining — and retaining — customers willing to splurge on higher-margin vehicles, coupled with improvements to its entire product line.

“We have a vehicle in every segment, except the luxury performance segment, so we feel we have roughly the right number of vehicles,” she said. “We’re not like some other manufacturers who don’t have mass-market brands, so you see them continue to extend their lineup. That’s not us. Having said that, we’re looking at derivatives that make sense.”

[Images: Ford Motor Co.]

Comments
Join the conversation
3 of 49 comments
  • Rocket Rocket on Apr 24, 2019

    What will they look like? If the Zephyr is the car I anticipate, they'll be just a flagship short of the brand Cadillac should be. I don't know if the stock market will care, but customers are already taking notice.

  • Cpmanx Cpmanx on Apr 25, 2019

    Well, SUVs make up the bulk of sales for Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lexus, Porsche, Jaguar. Acura, etc. The MKZ and Continental barely sell. I think that's your answer.

    • Bd2 Bd2 on Apr 28, 2019

      That's true more so for also-rans in the lux sedan/car race (Acura, Audi, etc.) than for MB and BMW which still sell plenty of sedans/cars (albeit, even they aren't immune to the switch to CUVs). Even Lexus is struggling to sell its (RWD) sedans, aside from the FWD ES.

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.
Next