What is going on with Ford Motor Company’s Lincoln The Lincoln Motor Company? Ford says the brand is going strong and even gave it a new name at the beginning of this year. But much of the automotive press has dismissed Lincoln and some have even predicted its death. Nevertheless, they continue introduce new models, but we have to wonder what Ford’s plans are for the “new” Lincoln Motor Company. To better understand what Lincoln’s future may hold, we need to take a look at its competition and its newest products.
Lincoln has long been the luxury brand of Ford. That is to say, Lincolns have simply been nicer versions of Ford vehicles. However, the automotive world is changing, and Ford has been leading the charge with its global platforms. But Lincoln seems to have been left behind and lost its character. What does Lincoln do that is different from Ford? Not much really. So, who are Lincoln’s top competitors?
Lexus? Yes and no. Lexus has been much like Lincoln in that it has only sold rebadged versions of Toyota, but Lexus has really stepped it up. New Lexus models such as the GS and the soon to be released IS prove that Lexus has a new target: Germany. Lexus is going after BMW and Mercedes by building rear wheel drive cars with a fair amount of power and competitive handling. Lincoln makes front wheel drive cars with very little power. Not Lexus models are sporty, so Lincoln could compete with the luxury and styling elements of these models, but even here Lincoln falls a little short.
Infiniti? Yes and no. Like Lexus, Infiniti is reinventing itself by creating models that offer sportiness and luxury. But again, Lincoln falls short.
Cadillac? No. The ATS, CTS, and XTS are all rear wheel drive and have a decent amount of power (when properly equipped, but is for another post). Again, Cadillac is gunning for the Germans, and by all accounts, the all new ATS has brought them close. But Lincoln’s current offerings cannot compete with the power and handling these cars offer.
BMW and Mercedes? Hell no.
Buick? Finally a competitor for Lincoln. But Buick is about it. Much like Lincoln and Ford, Buick sells rebadged versions of Chevrolet vehicles (much like all GM’s brands, but again, that is for another day). They are all front wheel drive and are primarily sold to…more mature Americans. This accurately describes Lincoln.
So what does Lincoln need to do? Clearly they cannot keep selling rebadged Fords and compete only with Buick. Mercury was axed because the cars were only rebranding Fords, but so does Lincoln. So why did Ford keep Lincoln? Perhaps we are beginning to see why. There has been a lot of talk lately about Lincoln developing a rear wheel drive platform based on the current Mustang’s platform. Could this be used to take on the Germans and Japanese luxury carmakers? Can Lincoln pull off what Lexus has done over the past several years. I believe it can, but it is going to take some fresh ideas and fair amount of resources to do so.
Welcome the MKC
Yesterday, Lincoln unveiled the MKC, the new SUV concept it is bringing to the Detroit Auto Show. Based on Ford’s new Escape, the MKC does not look like a Ford. Some suggest it looks like an Infiniti or a Range Rover Evoque, but the important thing is that it has a design unique to Lincoln.
When I first saw the MKC this morning, I wondered why it was not a Ford. It would sell better as a Ford, and it would look great with Ford’s new Aston Martin-like styling. But the more I thought about it, this really needed to be a Lincoln. Lincoln needs a vehicle that has styling that differs from the Ford that shares its platform. This model is the first step for The Lincoln Motor Company to separate itself from Ford.
As I look at the MKC’s beautiful body and luxurious interior, there is one question nagging me. How will it drive? The Escape has been well reviewed, but the Lincoln MKC needs to be different. It needs to offer something more. As I discussed above with the cars, Lincoln’s SUVs need a new target. Land Rover seems like a good target for Lincoln. Like a Land Rover, the MKC offers great looks and a luxurious interior, but will the MKC perform off-road? We will have to wait to find out. There are already a wide variety of luxury SUVs on the market today but there are only two companies, that I can think of, that sell nicely equipped off-road capable SUVs: Land Rover and Jeep. These companies should be Lincoln’s target with all future SUV offerings.
We do not know much about the new MKC, or about the new Lincoln Motor Company’s future plans, and we may find out more about both over the next few days. But if the “new” Lincoln Motor Company wants to compete on global scale like Ford, they will need all new models with new goals. Rear wheel drive luxury cars and an off-road capable luxury SUVs would set Lincoln apart from Ford and could save the company.