Autosavant Exclusive: Lincoln Product Plan Update

By Charles Krome

In my recent piece about the evolution of Lincoln, I fixated on what seemed to be a surprising comment from Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president for global sales, service and marketing. In a story covering the same subject in Automotive News, [sub req’d] he is indirectly quoted as follows: “Lincoln’s future products will stay in the $35,000 to $55,000 price range, Farley said.”

My basic thought here was that this would put a serious damper on Lincoln’s aspirations in the luxury segments. I mean, a fair number of those segments host vehicles that start north of $55 large, and a Lincoln price ceiling at that level would preclude competing in some important luxury spaces.

So, while I climbed up on ye olde soapbox in that piece, I also reached out to Ford for some clarification, and this morning, Lincoln’s communication manager, Christian Bokich, reached back.

Here’s the lowdown: Lincoln realizes it has some work to do to bolster its standing in the marketplace, and execs believe the right place to start is in the $35,000-$55,000 price range. Bokich, who was recently hired by Lincoln from Audi, explicitly touted that German brand’s run of success as a template. As he pointed out, the current Audi renaissance started in the same part of the market—think Audi A4 and the original TT—and by first establishing itself in the lower reaches of the lux segments, Audi was able to raise its reputation—and sales—through slow but steady expansion.

The result: While most automakers were struggling to minimize sales declines during the prior month, Audi rang up its best August ever in the U.S., selling 9,182 vehicles and attracting 14 percent more customers in August 2010 than it did during August of 2009. Lincoln sales were up in August, too, but that was based heavily on sales of the Lincoln Town Car (up 194.6 percent) and the Lincoln Navigator (up 29.5 percent). All of the division’s newer vehicles either lost sales or, in the case of the Lincoln MKT, didn’t have August 2009 numbers against which to run a comparison. From a volume standpoint, Lincoln sold a total of 6,428 units.

It’s hard to say if Lincoln’s Audi-esque plan to take things one step at a time will bring a similarly Audi-esque performance in the marketplace, but the brand’s decision not to overreach itself in the near-term future looks like a good one. I guess what really threw me off about this whole business was that, while I usually know to expect the unexpected in this industry, even I didn’t expect Lincoln would take such a realistic, common-sense approach to the luxury segments.

If things keep going like this, the Blue Oval mantra just might end up going from “One Ford” to “Ford Won.”

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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5 Comments

  1. I say Lincoln still has a future in the chaffeur operated livery fleet segment of the automotive market.

    In my daily commute I drive the the by-ways Chicago’s O’Hare. It never ceases to amaze how dominant the retired Lincoln Town Car remains in livery fleets.

    The Lincoln to Caddy ratio has got to be 40 to 1.

    After a long-haul flight nothing beats a ride in a syrupy, floaty limo.

  2. Audi’s success is based on superior engineering. It is not only marketing as Ford may wish to present. You have to engineer product that beats competition. Of course Lincoln can choose to follow Lexus example by designing unexceptional but very reliable cars. Reliability is the main weakness of Audi. I heard not once that people did not even consider Audi because of its reputation as maker of unreliable cars. If you whole life depends on car like in US – reliability is a top priority. That is why I have concerns about choosing A4 over MKZ. Even though MKZ is not as exciting as A4 you know that can rely on it. With A4 your car will sit in dealership too much often and after warranty expires you will face very expensive repairs. It is dark side of German over-engineering.

  3. The MKS is a loser, it’s outsold by the Cadillac CTS 3 to 1. Whenever it’s tested by Consumer Reports it always places last among it peers just like the Volvo S80 which it’s based on.

    The Town Car is what Lincoln has going for it, but Ford’s marketing morons can’t figure that out. All Ford has to do is drop the 3 valve 5.4 liter V-8 and a 6 speed automatic transmission in it and they’ll have a sales winner!!

  4. Lincoln has to do a couple obvious things to enter the race on the luxury segment. The delta between Ford and Lincoln must rise so there is a justification to pay thousands of dollars more for Lincoln.

    I do shop for the high end of Ford products. But for moving a little upscale, I just don’t see a reason to consider Lincoln because of either Ford products are so good (except, for their brakes, of course), or Lincoln just does not have the premium feel that one expects from a luxury car.
    The other issue is that I just can’t remember all these three letter names! Is this my problem or everyone else has the same problem! I like MB and BMW’s naming convention. The first letter or number gives a clue about the class of the car. The rest specify variations in the class.

    Lincoln styling is not very appealing to me. They have to take the waterfall grill and render it in some modern form. The current designs look rather awkward in the pictures. In other words, the pictures don’t entice you to go and test drive. Although I don’t shop Hyundai, but the new Sonata is really not bad. Why can’t Lincoln hire good designers or challenge their current talents to produce something bold and appealing.

  5. In my view of things at Ford, the only way for Lincoln to survive is keep Mercury!!!!

    You see how well the Town Car is selling, no matter how they want to discount it, they have a market for RWD large cars and seems they are sleeping at the wheel, get tired on the logic “its a old persons car” look that market needs attendion, people are living longer these days,plus these car probably have little warranty problems and repairs because of the age of the driver!

    Lincoln needs to return to presitage again, needs Rear Wheel Drive cars, A new RWD Mark Series, and Town Car, dont turn Lincoln into the new Mercury, they still need that gap between Ford and Lincoln that Mercury bridged, but Ford product starved Mercury and the same could happen to Lincoln with this team product people!Mercury could have followed Buicks lead on how to ressurect a mid level brand!

    With the internet age and other media, the customers are better informed, and I dont believe they want to pay $40,000 plus for a car with the same platform as a Taurus or Flex just because its cheaper for Ford to build it!

    Ford is now trying to demote the upscale Taurus FWD to police livery, it will never replace the Crown Vic, they had it sewed up until they decided to quite the Crown Vic

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