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.”