Brand, or Body? Lincoln Dealer Council Still Warm on Sedans, Points to Tesla
By the end of next year, Lincoln’s lineup will contain not a single passenger car. The decline of the Lincoln sedan has been well covered; you know all about the Fusion-based MKZ fading from the scene this year and the reborn Continental falling victim to declining sales, slated for execution sometime in 2021.
Parting is such sweet sorrow, and Lincoln’s national dealer council isn’t ready to say goodbye. However, the brand held up as an example of sedan success might not be a valid template for other automakers.
“The council continues to talk to the company about still needing to be in the sedan business,” said Tom Lynch, chairman of the Lincoln National Dealer Council, in a recent interview with Automotive News.
“You only have to look at Tesla. If you have a strong product, people are going to want it, and they’re going to want to buy it. What that looks like for Lincoln going forward, I’m not sure of.”
As general manager of a Lincoln dealer in Jacksonville, Florida, Lynch says a brand that abandons a segment that still makes up nearly a third of the American new-vehicle market forfeits any sales it might be able to draw from that pool.
“If we’re not in segments where there still is a good amount of business, I think the company and the dealers lose out,” he said. “So for all those reasons, council still feels like we need to be in the sedan business.”
The problem with the Tesla comparison is that Tesla is not a conventional automaker. While the Model 3 did dominate global EV sales in 2019, selling more than 300,000 examples (sales rose 14 percent in the U.S.), the car’s badge arguably has as much to do with its popularity as its emissions-free drivetrain. The most dogmatic of Tesla diehards see other automakers as insufficiently “pure,” as they still field gas-powered and SUVs alongside their EVs.
Only Tesla can lay claim to a 100-percent green automaker status (minus upstream emissions from manufacturing, power generation, and mining), and that remains a significant part of the brand’s appeal — along with CEO Elon Musk’s status as an industry disruptor and Silicon Valley rock star.
It can easily be argued that Model 3s are popular because they’re Tesla Model 3s. The Los Angeles Times did.
Lincoln has little trouble selling a gas-powered crossover or SUV, but it’s hard to envision a new electric sedan giving Tesla a run for its money. While the brand retains some cachet (Lincoln’s been working strenuously to return some lustre to the badge), it lacks both the mystique of the Palo Alto-based EV maker and the perceived virtue.
Whatever the solution is, the cynic in us sees Lynch’s concerns falling on deaf ears in Dearborn.
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