• Feb 16th 2010 at 5:58PM
  • 67
2010 Lincoln MKT – click above for high-res image gallery

In a nutshell, the problem with Lincoln is that on the Taurus SHO launch, Ford brought along an Audi A6 4.2 for comparison's sake. Says one Lincoln dealer, "It's hard to sell a $48,000 MKS when the Ford guy down the street has a Taurus with the same features for $10,000 less." Put another way, despite the polarizing new sheetmetal, it's still obvious to consumers that the MKZ is a Fusion, the MKS is a Taurus, the MKX is an Edge and the MKT is the Flex.

"I have more dedicated Lincoln-Mercury employees than Ford Motor Co. does. They don't have any executives who wake up every day thinking about these brands." Says Lincoln/Mercury dealer owner Chris Lemley to The Detroit News in what might just be the "ouch!" comment of the year.

Part of the problem is without question the not-so-great state of the economy, with luxury sales tanking by nearly 25 percent in 2009. Still, with Lincolns priced lower than the competition, one might think they'd be selling better. For instance, the Lincoln MKT (priced at $49,995 with all the fixins) matches up quite well with the much more expensive Audi Q7 ($61,825). However, "If people were cross-shopping Audi and Lincoln, that would be great," said one analyst. "Audi buyers are shopping for a style statement. They're not even looking at Lincoln. Lincoln still has not gotten back up to first-tier luxury." Hence all that dealer fury.

[Source: The Detroit News]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      First, no one shopping for an Audi would consider a non-European brand period. Don't even make the statement they wouldn't just consider a Lincoln. They wouldn't consider a Cadillac or a Lexus either. There is a European-snobbishness with Audi buyers that also migrates over to the BMW crowd and somewhat to the Mercedes buyers.

      Second, Lincoln has ONLY JUST STARTED being less Ford and more of something else. I'm surprised that there is any concern at all since it has only been in the last two model years that there has been any real differentiation between Ford and Lincoln. I think the expectations are too high.

      Third, the overall luxury class is significantly down in sales. Lincoln isn't doing any worse than the average and couple this with the second point and expectations are just unrealistic.

      Fourth, the company that should whine is Cadillac - look at a division that has money thrown at it with a plethora of models that don't sell. Even the so-called new CTS is doing worse in sales comps (year over year) than some of the Lincolns. And the CTS has had loads of marketing dollars thrown at it along with wasted dollars building a station wagon and a coupe.

      Fifth, I'd contend that it will take five years or LONGER for Lincoln and/or Cadillac to break free from their plebian roots ASSUMING continued refinement of the products. Once again expectations are unrealistic.

      Sixth, this whole assessment of Lincoln ignores the increased competition from Hyundai which is essentially producing knockoffs of other automakers work (much like Lexus has done!) and peddling them at significantly lower sticker prices. And Hyundai has demonstrated a quicker learning pattern than any competitor in this segment and isn't wasting its time building coupes which will sell 1000 units or station wagons which will sell 1400 more in a year like Cadillac.

      Seventh, what is perhaps the greatest problem for Ford/Lincoln and Government Motors/Cadillac is that the lower brands are nearly as luxurious as the upper brands - the Taurus SHO example being applied here as noted by a prior commentator. I know that I sat in Lincolns and Fords and was wondering why would I buy a Lincoln again? I've owned both Fords and Lincolns and can't see myself buying a Lincoln in the future. And it isn't because the Lincolns are bad cars or are ugly (they aren't and they aren't). It is because Ford vehicles have improved to the point that Lincoln is looking useless.

      Corrective strategies I'd recommend.

      First, build Lincolns to customer specifications and only build to order. Don't have a lot filled with mass produced cars that remove the exclusivity of the purchase.

      Second, define Lincoln into a luxury/performance brand and forgo having any base models whatsoever.

      Third, have unique materials and colors and treatments for Lincolns that you can't get from Ford. Cadillac a few years ago had the "bling" image and Ford needs to create its own "essence" for Lincoln - be it superior interiors, woods, leathers, or powerplants - maybe advanced engine and eight speed transmissions that don't go to Fords for at least three years. And while each Lincoln would be built on an assembly line as now, it would be more catered to the individual consumer who has ordered the vehicle to create an exclusivity about it.

      Fourth, the buying experience must be the best in the industry - maybe you fly the customer to the production facility and have them watch the car being built - treat them to first class treatment throughout - wine and dine - make the delivery of a vehicle as an experience that you'd expect from Rolls Royce or high end Mercedes/Maybach but at a slightly higher than now Lincoln price. In other words, do the Hyundai treatment on the upper level cars offering lower price and a touch of that exclusivity to create a "snob" appeal.

      Fifth, offer lifetime service - as long as the customer owns the car they get their vehicle serviced for nothing, lifetime warranty, and have the vehicle picked up and delivered to the customer cleaned and brought back to specs.

      The fact is that simply doing what Lincoln is doing and adding real wood and some subtle styling cues isn't enough to improve their image to more than an afterthought in the marketplace. If Lincoln is sincere about being "world class" luxury, then it needs to reinvent itself and become the snob of all snob mass market vehicles. And I recognize that some of what I've recommended is done by other companies already, but Ford must incorporate them all into Lincoln to be viewed as more than a Fairmont with a Lincoln grill.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Laser, you make some interesting points. Would be VERY interesting to see if a business case could be make for doing what you suggested with Lincoln. Maybe not build-to-order but something close. Next question is, what to do with Mercury?
        • 5 Years Ago
        That was an EXTREMELY long post,

        But I have some ideas of my own

        First, I like your general assessment of the state of Lincoln. It is true that Ford really does need to focus on a clear marketing strategy and message for Lincoln, one that differentiates it from Ford in terms of type of buyer and/or price point.

        But would argue that Lincoln dealerships actually do have much to complain about here. Yes, the luxury segment is down, but significant product differentiation is a very reasonable request from dealers -- badge engineering simply isn't as profitable as it used to be. Without it, Lincoln is not going to recover from the downturn in the industry. They really need to get the ball rolling, as GM has already done by putting lots of resources into Buick. (More on that further down.)

        Where I strongly disagree is in your suggestions for remedying the situation. If you really think Lincoln is profitable or sustainable as a made-to-order-only vehicle with a level of service comparable to vehicles that cost 6 figures, then really what you're suggesting is moving Lincoln into the "ultraluxury" segment. And that is a failing strategy. I guarantee what you're suggesting will have the same market reaction that VW received when it made the Phaeton.

        Think about it:

        BMW and Mercedes-Benz have plenty of vehicles on dealer lots that are not "made to order," and your experience is certainly not what you'd get at a Bentley dealership. Yet, they are the benchmarks in the luxury industry. Why? Let me pose another question:

        Who wants to be flown to a Ford factory (By the way, most Lincolns are made in Mexico and Canada. Hardly the "epitome of American luxury") and served cheese while they buy a Lincoln? The investment you would need to produce that level of quality of vehicles and the added costs in dealership improvements and training for that buying experience would necessitate cars that are priced like Maybachs (not to mention the cost of lifetime service that you've suggested). I can't name a single sane person who would buy that value proposition. Why? For the reasons you just stated. A Lincoln is not a status vehicle that commands such an experience or price, and if consumers are not receptive to your proposition, it fails immediately.

        A more realistic approach would be for Lincoln to take a few pointers from Buick and realize what their vehicles' actual strengths and weaknesses are. Buick, for example, suffers from three major problems: cars that are not differentiated in the market, cars that are not considered on par with other luxury automakers, and an aging buyer base. (Very similar problems to Lincoln, yes?) The new marketing campaign for the Lacrosse combined with the re-introduction of the Regal to breathe some life into grandpa's automaker have helped to address all of these issues.

        Take note!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Looks like Baraka from Mortal Kombat.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I haven't comparison shopped, but what is the big difference between a fully loaded Taurus SHO and what ever the comparable Lincoln MK? What luxury item does a Lincoln have that pushes it 10-20k higher than the Taurus?

      Consumers aren't stupid, and they certainly won't pay more for a rebadge with more chrome.

      I say start over with Lincoln. Release a 2 car lineup, a small euro-style lux and a small euro-style crossover. Cadillac has done a good job with the CTS and the small SUV.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Well,duh.It doesn't take a genius to know that a Lincoln is a Ford with leather and a different grill...

      I think what FoMoCo needs to do is offer a convertable Lincoln.Or a roadster based on the Miata platform.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ford and GM have routinely marketed Lincoln and Cadillac vehicles based on similar "lower level" family product platforms. Luxury imports like Acura, Audi, Infiniti, Lexus, etc. have done it too, at least in the past yet that doesn't seem to bother consumers quite as much. Clearly there's more at work here than an issue with too similar platforms.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is all the more reason Mercury is needed because Lincoln dealers cannot survive with Lincoln alone.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's ironic that a Lincoln/Mercury dealer complains because that pairing is one of the problems.

      There are no VW/Audi dealers, Lexus/Toyota dealers, or Acura/Honda dealers. They may reside in adjacent parking lots but they DO NOT share the showroom.

      The brand is built partially by the showroom/dealership experience. It's marketing guys, Product/Place/Promotion/Price. The buyer with money to burn is buying the status, because the function for most is just transportation, and is looking for total differentiation. Many have cited-rightfully-the badge engineered product for Lincoln as a detriment. That is reinforced by the Milan sitting next to the MKZ. No ES sits next to a Camry or RX next to a Highlander.

      You don't need to fly them to the factory but the Lincoln owner does deserve his own ownership experience. He's paid for it. The dealer probably doesn't want to hear it unless Ford backs it up with superior market product, Until then Lincoln will be considered lower tier by upmarket buyers. Cadillac faces the same issue.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What about a full size luxury sedan based on the Australian Falcon?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Lincoln really needs rear-wheel-drive products in order to compete...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree. They really need to separate themselves from the bread-butter Ford cars, and that is accomplished with a rear-wheel platform similar to what Cadillac, BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus has. Sure, keep one or two front wheel drive variants, but in the luxury department have the front wheels only steer while the rear push.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Exactly! This is what I want from Lincoln...a bunch of new rear-wheel-drive sport sedans and sports cars with both six and eight cylinder motors! Once again, I would love to see a brand new full size sport sedan and mid-size sport sedan competitors that are on par with Lexus LS and GS, BMW 7 and 5 Series, MB S and E class. No more Town Car would be a great start.

        It would also be nice to see a couple new rear-wheel-drive coupes/convertibles to compete with both mid ($50-60k) and upper market vehicles ($60-80k).
        • 5 Years Ago
        Lincoln really needs not to look like an Oldsmobile with gum disease in order to compete...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Lincoln had it right with the LS and the direction it pointed - COTY (02?), RWD, competitive with BMW/Audi of the day, 6MT was an option [until 03], v6/v8/+performance options, etc. I owned 2 - an '02 v6 6MT and an '03 v8 Auto Sport - both were great cars (especially slightly used since they depreciated like a rock vs. the competition).

        But, when Ford disbanded PAG and sold off the remnants, the LS withered and died (the LS originally shared the same platform with the Jag S-Type of the day).

        Too bad, I was a Lincoln believer at the time, thinking the LS heralded where the brand was going, not a dead end. As a young upper 20s/early 30s, I was exactly the demographic they were courting.

        They've done nothing that has interested me in the slightest since. Nada, zilch, zero - _nothing_. Lincolns is nothing but rebadged Fords and it shows. No amount of brightwork or fascia tweaks change that.

        I've since moved on the Cadillac ('06 CTS-V, FTW!) and am not looking back. Call me when they've got an LS successor.

        • 5 Years Ago
        PiCASSO--learn your facts before you preach.
        the A3 and TT are FWD based. the A4 and A6 are available in FWD, but the AWD available is true AWD. the A8 and R8 are AWD. there are no RWD Audis.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Audi is a mix bag. A3, A4 and A6 are both FWD based, although A4 has improved the weight distribution by bringing the engine behind the front axle. A8 and R8 are both RWD.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't think your typical luxury buyer gives a whit about which wheels drive the car. Luxury car owners are buying into an ownership experience and a brand image as much as the car itself. Many times, I tried to talk friends and family into looking at a CTS, (prev-gen) SRX, TSX, or other such product on their individual merits, and almost every time, they'd drive home in a Lexus, Mercedes, or BMW instead. "Yeah, it was nice, but this is a BMW."

        Detroit's luxury-brand executives are out to lunch on this market. They expect Audi shoppers to drop $45K a Lincoln because the Lincoln might be a comparably good vehicle, and ignore the fact that they had to go to a run-down Lincoln/Mercury dealer to do so, and then wait in line behind the geezer in his Town Car and the guy with a clapped-out '96 Mystique every time they take it in for service. Selling luxury cars is not just about *cars,* and Lincoln (and Cadillac and Buick, for that matter) will continue to trail in public perception until their parent companies realize that.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Kill Mercury, move Lincoln upmarket; save FoMoCo.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Toyota and Nissan figured out that it takes more then some upgrades to base existing car to make a luxury car. RWD sets the high end brand apart. I'm really surprised that Honda hasn't changed over to RWD for Acura.

      In the case of Lincoln, it would help if it wasn't ugly, and they still have old mans car tied to the name. I for one am sick of auto makers just making clones with different names, sheet metal, and a few bells and whistles. Ask GM how making gobs of cars from the same platform works.

      • 5 Years Ago
      "Audi buyers are shopping for a style statement. They're not even looking at Lincoln."

      i dont want to look at that ugly MKT either.
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