Ford’s Latest Plans for a Lincoln Revival

February 7th, 2011
2007 Lincoln MKR concept

2007 Lincoln MKR concept: Will this get built?

Look for seven new or redesigned Lincolns to come in the next three years, says the Detroit Free Press. It took a long time for the brand to disintegrate as badly as it has, so don’t expect a turnaround tomorrow.

While demand for all Ford cars has lately boomed (up 13 percent overall; 7,000 likely new hires in the next two years), Lincoln has been killing itself with lousy product and way too many dealers.

Last fall, we mentioned some hopeful signs (here and here) for new product development at Lincoln. Everyone wonders what the new line will look like and whether it will be able to challenge Cadillac and Lexus in the luxury market. What they need to do is revive the Continental.

Continental Mark IIHard to believe, but the last truly great Continental was the Mark II, made in 1956. A beautiful example (right) just appeared on Hemmings. I remember driving one of these (owned by a friend of my father’s) as a young man, and it was, well, perfect.

After the 1960-’63 Continentals, the brand just lost its way, and we got enormous baroque barges like the 1977 Continental Town Car, below right.

Lincoln Continental Town CarOn Sunday Ford announced it would reduce its 500 Lincoln dealerships to 325, not by “forcing anyone out,” but by setting “higher standards.” (That’s not forcing them out?) The company is requiring dealers to:

  • offer free car washes and loaners
  • provide dedicated Lincoln sales and service staff (in dealerships paired with Ford stores)
  • make at least 30 percent of their used offerings certified pre-owned vehicles
  • use only “Lincoln”—not “Mercury,” which was dumped last December by Ford—in their signage.

Well, gosh, those don’t seem to be unreasonable demands. If dealers can’t meet them by October 2011, Ford wants their franchises back. The company must absolutely reduce dealer numbers to help the remainder survive.

But the most pressing need is new product, and until that arrives, the present and future dealers will continue to struggle. One dealer confidently says, “They are making sure that Lincoln is going to be successful. They have people now (at Ford) who are waking up every day and just thinking about Lincoln.”

Do you think Ford will follow through on reviving the Lincoln line? Check out its current offerings at the Lincoln website.

—jgoods

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  1. panayoti
    February 7th, 2011 at 19:09 | #1

    I didn’t mean to imply that it literally take Merc’s spot but rather to offer an upscale alternative to Ford products like Merc used to be to Ford products. In other words, Grand Marquis to Crown Vic, Sable to Taurus, etc. It worked for decades, why not now? Lincoln is dead and it should have been done away with, not Mercury.

    As to Jason’s point, Hyundai (and I am a huge fan and stockholder) is finding out that luxury must be earned. Their XG350, Azera, Genesis, and now Equus models aren’t having the success that their cheaper products have enjoyed. Critics love the cheap, but almost all carp about short cuts here and there and an observable lack of quality standards and performance compared to industry icons. This will take a lot of time. Most people still don’t know about Hyundai/Kia compared to comparable models that have been around for a while.

  2. Jason Ordonez
    February 7th, 2011 at 17:01 | #2

    Totally agree about Lincoln taking out the letter/numbers… I know it works for BMW, but they have earned that reputation… having the Lincoln compete in the Mercury status would not be smart for Ford because it would cannibalize the Mercury product… What Lincoln should do is what Hundai is doing right now… offer a luxury car at a very cheap price and win the market segment with quality and dependability!

  3. jgoods
    February 7th, 2011 at 15:27 | #3

    @ panayoti
    Right on, regarding the letter names! I can never remember which car MKS or MKT refers to, and I’ll bet others have the same problem. Yes, they have to earn their status as luxury cars, but I don’t think Ford will slot them in the Mercury category. Too much overlap with Ford’s other offerings, and indeed they make more money on high-end vehicles.

  4. panayoti
    February 7th, 2011 at 15:08 | #4

    A far better idea would be to get rid of “names” being letters and/or numbers. The only really identifiable model in their lineup is a Continental. All these MK(fill in a letter) monikers can’t be helping them. Another suggestion would be to “lower” their status aspirations. You can’t just will yourself to be a “luxury” car, you have to earn the reputation. Why not move down to say, Mercury status and be happy selling many more cars at a lesser price and more profitable margin??

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