Is Lincoln Abandoning the Luxury Segment?

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.

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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  1. The problem is Ford can’t compete with the CTS (much less the CTS-V) because they do not have a chassis in that category anymore.

    Unless they bring the Falcon Frame over from Australia, or possibly stretch the D2C platform used for the Mustang, Ford does not have a RWD uni-body chasis in inventory on which to build a competator.

    The MKS can’t compete, it’s FWD/AWD. It’s nice, but it’s still a gussied up Taurus.

  2. I actually thought they left the luxury segment years ago. A Crown Vic with Leather and a Lincoln badge is still a Crown Vic.

  3. Stretching the Mustang frame would be a waste of time the Falcon is far superior and more modern and better handling it competes directly against the GM Holden the caddy is based on.

  4. The likelihood for a six-figure Cadillac succeeding in the current recession is close to nil. Consider how poorly the Mercedes SL competitor Caddy XLR sold PRIOR to the recession.

    Even Chevy is issuing $3K rebates on the six figure Corvette ZR1.

    Lincoln did offer the superior DEW based RWD LS model (built of the Jaguar S-Type / Ford T-Bird platform) and it didn’t sell well at all. The current Mustang is built on the derived D2C (less expensive due to the solid rear axle layout).

    Therefore there is no reason to believe that a Ford Falcon platformed Lincoln would sell in any volume.

    In the Land of Oz Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons simply do not compete in the true luxury car segment. Instead they do battle with premium Toyota Aurions and Nissan Teanas. (Similar to Avalon and Maxima).

    The CTS is built on the older Sigma platform, developed by Holden exclusively for Cadillac in 1998. No Holden product was actually built off Sigma.

    The fact is that the only GM sedans sold in the US, which were directly derived from Holden models, failed miserably: The Pontiac GTO and the Pontiac G8.

  5. George,
    I actually thought the LS was a nice car, but both the LS6 and LS8 were woefully underpowered. The LS6 with an automatic and it’s tiny V-6 could barely get out of it’s own way. The LS8 was better, but unfortunately was only available with a slushbox.

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