UPDATE: There is life at Lincoln-Mercury
More after the jump.
Looking at the growth shown in the entry-level luxury market, the Lincoln and Mercury brands will be flipped volume-wise. Whereas Mercury was always the higher-volume seller of the two brands, it will now become more of a niche brand. Lincoln will be getting a push for sales volume and while Lincoln is not directly targeting the segment leaders in the luxury market, its offerings are solid performers in their respective classes and won't embarass themselves. Conversely, they run the risk of not standing out, but performance isn't the only area where you can leave an impression.
The idea going forward is to have Lincoln compete in the various segments for buyers looking to reward themselves. As crazy as it sounds, some people would rather have sybaritic rewards instead of all out barnstorming. To that end, Lincoln is looking to be a standout with high levels of luxury and equipment in its vehicles. The MKR concept vehicle shown in Detroit is an embodiement of where Lincoln styling will go. We may not see that very car in production, but it's a document of cues and themes that will spread across the range. Love it or hate it, nobody will deny that you will identify it as a Lincoln from a mile away. That instant recognition will be applied to all Lincolns. It'll be great to see the Town Car go from blobby to bold.
Lincoln once was, and to a degree still is, the "Town Car" marque, but that distinction is not what the future of the brand is staked on. To be sure, the Town Car is not going away, it's arguably the quintessential American luxury car. Models like the MKX, MKZ, and MKS are going to attract new clientele while the Town Car continues to satisfy its buyers. The key is to bring new owners to the fold while retaining current customers. There are Lincolns available in more segments now; from entry-level C-segment sedans all the way up to the large and in charge Navigator. We're seeing a push toward offering more vehicles and more modern vehicles at that, so the planned increase in sales volume makes sense. Now all they have to do is sell it -- we'll keep a sharp eye on the advertising efforts. At this point, execution of the marketing plan will make or break Lincoln. Dwayne Wade better bring his A-game.
With Lincoln taking the baton for sales, Mercury is to take on a more unique identity. The common dope on the brand right now is that Mercury is a stepping stone between Ford and Lincoln. Dispel that notion, as that's not the plan. Mercury is intended to attract different customers than either Ford or Lincoln. There will be further design distinction of Mercury vehicles, but we wouldn't hold our breath for much more than fascias and equipment in the near future. There eventually could be European Fords in the Mercury showroom, and sheetmetal differences between the brands may evolve to the point where greenhouses and doors are not shared between platform mates.
As has been noted, Mercury attracts a higher percentage of female buyers -- almost a third more than Ford. Minority buyers are also doubly attracted to Mercury products than Ford. With conquest rates in the 40-percent range, Mercury appears to be successfully targeting savvy folks who want something a little different. The folks that Mercury thinks are target customers aren't cross-shopping Ford brands, but rather comparing Mercury to offerings from Japanese and European makes. The mind immediately jumps to our favorite vehicles from those places; most are capable of some zooty performance. Cars like the Altima, 3-series, and Accord coupes. Like Lincoln, Mercury isn't looking to flatten the competition with sheer performance numbers. They want to win buyers by offering appealing designs with a high level of quality and features. Again, performance will be "adequate", but Mercury thinks offering AWD across virtually the entire fleet, interior packaging and features like an award-winning Nav system and the newly debuted infotainment toy, Sync, will be what really excites buyers. Not such a bad gamble, as we spend a lot more time sitting in traffic than we do flexing any underhood muscle. Being entertained during gridlock is pretty important, and a comfy interior makes the minutes tick by less painfully.
One thing we can expect to see from Ford as a whole is a consolidation of platforms and product development across their worldwide divisions. We're betting Dearborn is taking a long look at what Saturn's been up to and thinking hard about emulating that strategy. This bodes well for quelling the hue and cry for the Euro platforms coming stateside. No decisions on that have been made, but rest assured, they're looking at it. Ford's hot to share platforms more widely, so they're going to be picking out the best of what they've got worldwide, and trotting what's left off into the sunset. Although we know that there's a love among enthusiasts for V8 powerplants driving the rear wheels, we wouldn't hold our breath. While we might think it'd be a surefire hit, it'd likely just cause a stir, and make a lot of people look on in admiration, while they ponied up the cash for something else. We're a small (yet eminently vocal) minority. The one question we have yet to get answered, and we know its of utmost importance to you, dear readers, is whether they'll make a return to the old logo, or stick with the "waterfall." We've got a call in, and we'll keep calling Mercury every hour on the hour until they talk. Must be some kind of embargo.
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