By Charles Krome
Surprisingly, the answer is “yes”—at least if you believe Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president of global marketing, sales and service. Farley was providing some hints about Lincoln’s future direction in a recent Automotive News interview [sub req'd], and he had plenty to say about how the loss of Mercury will be Lincoln’s gain.
The focus will be on providing stronger differentiation between Ford and Lincoln products, a longstanding and ongoing problem exemplified today by a quick comparo between the division’s crossover cousins, the Edge and the MKX. Even with the 2011 models, with their vastly different grille treatments, there’s no disguising their shared roots. And the situation with the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ isn’t that different. (Note that in the accompanying photos, I’m showing a 2010 Fusion and a 2011 MKZ; it was oddly (?) difficult to find similar profile shots of each from the same model year.)
But that’s an old story that Ford began telling as soon as Mercury got the axe. What’s new is this interesting indirect quote from the AN story: “Lincoln’s future products will stay in the $35,000 to $55,000 price range, Farley said.”
The problem with that strategy can be summed in four simple letters: CTS-V. After all, the price of admission to the Cadillac of Cadillacs starts at $63,465. And the Cadillac DTS may start at $46,280, but it can be optioned up to $64,300 if you check every box on the list. That means the car’s replacement, the XTS, will certainly exceed $55K, and there’s a rumor of an Ed Whitacre-authorized flagship that would be positioned on top of the XTS, and I’m smelling six figures here.
I can certainly understand Lincoln’s decision to leave the full-size body-on-frame luxury SUV competition to the Escalade—which, if you’re curious, can hit a mind-blowing $88,230 when packing its two-mode hybrid powertrain—but if Ford’s premium division is not going to compete with the best of the rest that Cadillac has to offer, it’s not really a luxury auto brand, is it?
It’s just a fact of life today that a price ceiling of $55,000 does not buy you much in the way of a luxury vehicle. That would cover a Lexus GS, which tops out MSRP-wise at $54,470, but not the LS—that starts north of $65K; you could get into the C and E Class at Mercedes, but the S, CL and CLS entries would be verboten, and forget about anything from AMG; the Hyundai Equus will hit $60,000, for Ford’s sake.
Now, Farley could be channeling his cousin, the late comic genius Chris Farley, and making some kind of joke here, but that’s not the feeling I got from the AN piece. Which meant I had no choice but to pretend to be an actual journalist and contact Ford for some clarification.
I’ll let you know what I hear.
Update: This post contains a Lincoln spokesman’s response. Yep, it’s true.