Ads for the 2020 Lincoln Aviator are scheduled to drop this Saturday, but those of us with internet access got to see them a day early. Lincoln’s “Fresh Take” campaign is a bit of a misnomer, however, because the person who’s chiming in on the new model is Matthew McConaughey.
Ford has used the Oscar-winning actor to showcase its premium products for years now, and this writer is not ashamed to say that he’s grown to love them. While not particularly substantive, they’re difficult to look away from. McConaughey muses about the vehicle in a calm, dreamlike haze. Occasionally looking into the rearview mirror before casually reapplying his attention to the always clear road ahead, he’s presumably talking to himself — but it’s really for our benefit.
And that’s why I’m so fond of them. In my mind, McConaughey is a polished lunatic — not quite a Patrick Bateman, but definitely unhinged. And it translates into comedy gold. Yet another viewer might see the ad and think, “Boy he’s handsome and calm — it’s like nothing is ever going to go wrong inside that car.”
Just how much the polar vortex and a chillier than normal February weighed on U.S. vehicle sales is up for debate, but Ford Motor Company felt the buying public’s cold shoulder last month. Actually, make that just the Ford brand. The Blue Oval division saw a 5.1 percent drop in sales, year over year, last month, thought its luxury stablemate continued its strong early 2019 showing.
The good news for Lincoln comes before anyone has a chance to buy what’s widely seen as the brand’s savior: the Aviator midsize crossover.
Traditionally, Lincolns served as the poster car for traditional, well-to-do Americans, just not ridiculously wealthy ones. Think successful club owner, business executive, law office partner, Vegas hashish importer, or rare antiques dealer. Regardless of model, the brand’s vehicles never ventured into the rarified pricing air occupied by European exotics — not even the Continental Mk. II, which stickered for the equivalent of $90k back in 1956.
That changes for 2019, as the Lincoln with the biggest margins — the full-size Navigator — joins its Cadillac rival in topping the six-figure mark.
As we told you earlier this month, the full-size Lincoln Navigator SUV plays a much larger role in the brand’s fortunes than in years past. The nameplate now accounts for over 18 percent of Lincoln’s sales. Over the first five months of 2018, sales of the square-rigged luxomobile rose 85.8 percent, partially offsetting the loss of passenger car sales and topping up Ford’s coffers with the model’s generous MSRP.
Sales aren’t the only thing on the rise when it comes to the Navigator.
They might not happen as often as they once did, thanks to deregulation leading to mergers and consolidation, but fare wars once were a regular occurrence as airlines fought to snag passengers by dropping prices.
The automotive industry isn’t immune to battles waged on price. Even luxury makes sometimes have to offer deep discounts to keep the competition at bay.
Which is what Cadillac is doing to stave off a challenge from Lincoln. Sort of.
For an automaker worried about shrinking profit margins, spending an extra $25 million is just fine if it means cranking out 25 percent more high-margin SUVs. And the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, now minty fresh after years spent withering on the vine, certainly fit the description of “guaranteed cash generator.”
Ford plans to add that sum to the $900 million already sunk into the Kentucky Truck Plant in an effort to boost production of its full-size SUV models, knowing full well Americans buyers will snap them up the minute they roll off the line. Is there a clearer example of an automaker treating SUVs as a license to print money?
In 2016, Ford Motor Company’s stable of rear-drive vehicles came under scrutiny for six-speed transmissions that couldn’t decide whether to sprint or crawl. Owners reported that their 2011-2012 F-150s, Expeditions, Mustangs, and Lincoln Navigators would, suddenly and without warning, downshifting from upper ratios to first gear, ultimately forcing the automaker to recall some 153,000 of the vehicles in the United States.
It now looks like it didn’t recall enough of them. Dangerous downshifts continue, and not just in vehicles covered by the recall. Another concern is that the problem is reappearing in supposedly “fixed” vehicles.
Ford has been fine-tuning the Lincoln brand for a while now and improving the cars is only half the story. A luxury nameplate needs more than a lineup of quality autos, it needs prestige. Since taking on Matthew McConaughey as its official spokesmodel, Lincoln has witnessed an uptick in sales — growing by 1.6 percent year over year through November 2017 in the United States.
How much of that can be attributed directly to the Oscar-winning actor is up for debate. But you don’t mess with the formula when you start making headway, so Lincoln has decided to press onward with another weird add with him in the driver’s seat of the 2018 Navigator.
Despite the addition of a corporate split grill a few years ago, there’s no denying Lincoln’s outgoing Navigator is one old piece of kit. As such, the glitzy premiere of the new-for- 2018 Navigator heralded greater full-size Lincoln SUV sales not just from new buyers, but returning ones.
Having seen what Dearborn was up to, it seems some inhabitants of the Renaissance Center decided to try and spoil Lincoln’s fun. If you’re the owner of a 1999 or newer Lincoln vehicle who’s thinking of maybe getting into a new Navigator, Cadillac would like you to know there’s 5,000 smackeroos waiting for you on the hood of your nearest Escalade.
Despite festooning its large utility vehicles with the latest and greatest fuel-saving technologies — turbocharging, dual injection, 10-speed automatics — Ford isn’t finished reducing the thirst of its big SUVs.
According to sources with knowledge of the automaker’s product plans, the push for better MPGs includes giving those gas-fueled engines a break once in awhile. Care for an extra motor in your Expedition or Navigator?
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- Ajla GM didn't do this even when Corvette sales and cocaine use were at their peak.
- Dwford How many more wealthy performance car buyers does Chevy think they can drag into their showroom full of middle of the road crossovers? I guess they will find out
- SCE to AUX It's been done before, with varied success:Ford --> LincolnHyundai --> GenesisGM --> XLR (Cadillac), ELR (Cadillac)VW Touareg --> Porsche CayenneI suspect GM is trying to avoid the Mustang fiasco (which is working for Ford, BTW), by not making the Corvette name a sub-brand - only its hardware.(In the Mustang's case, YTD 46% of "Mustang" branded vehicles are the Mach-E, but they share no hardware. GM's plan is much different and less controversial.)Back to the sub-brand: the XLR and ELR experiments were total duds, borrowing hardware from the Corvette and Volt respectively. Both sullied Cadillac's name - not Chevy's.
- Art Vandelay I don’t care what they do with the brand. But I do want to see how a mid engined platform spawns a 4 door and a crossover
- Varezhka If they’re going to do this, might as well go all the way and make it a standalone brand instead of a Chevy sub-brand. They already have a unique emblem, after all. Shouldn’t there be enough empty former Hummer, Saab, or Cadillac dealer showrooms to house them?