“We sold all of our premium brands; we have no other luxury brand than Lincoln.”
– Lincoln vice-president Jim Fairley.
When you think about a premium brand, Lincoln probably doesn’t come to mind.
The once mighty domestic luxury brand has been left too long without any unique offerings to distinguish itself from the parent brand Ford. For decades Ford would take existing models, make a few changes and call them a Lincoln. This drove the brand to almost irrelevance in a highly competitive marketplace.
Well, there are big plans afoot at Lincoln to change all of that. With a lot of hard work, unique designs, engines and marketing, Ford is hoping to make Lincoln relevant again, not just taking on rival Cadillac but also the best of the import luxury brands.
I had a chance to catch up with Jim Farley, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing, Sales and Service for Lincoln and Ford at a recent auto show. Getting to spend time with one of the driving forces behind the new Lincoln was eye opening.
He told me:
“All you need to know is two facts. The first fact is that we sold all of our premium brands (Jaguar, Aston Martin, Volvo and Range Rover) – we have no other luxury brand than Lincoln. So if you want a luxury brand and you’re an executive at the company, you’re going to be driving a Lincoln.
“The second fact that you need to know about is that we have already spent the resources on the product, for fully differentiated products that the company has not done in decades. So, this is kind of the first time, in probably twenty years, that the company has really, in Lincoln, to be truly global.
“And the decision to go to China is very important for Canadian customers because it is the ultimate example of our commitment.”
There is a four-vehicle on slot of new products that Lincoln hopes will bring them back.
The first was the MKZ sedan that came out in 2013. It has been selling well, and the hybrid version has been a surprise, with buyers choosing it in volumes Lincoln had not expected.
The second vehicle will be the all-new MKC compact luxury SUV, based on the Ford Escape that will arrive this summer.
Farley describes the MKC this way: “It’s a subcompact, Escape-sized true luxury product but it has even more exclusive features compared to the Ford product than we have ever done at Lincoln before. Exclusive engine, exclusive design, the roof is much lower than the Escape.”
In describing the MKC, Farley said, “It has all the comfort and feature-functions that you would expect from a world-class luxury brand.”
Powering the MKC is an all-new 2.3L turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine with an estimated 300hp and 300lb.-ft. or torque. This is the same engine that will be available in the all-new Mustang.
The design of the new MKC has a very European silhouette but with a stylized Lincoln grille. The back of the MKC was a major engineering an design challenge due to the wrap around tailgate that brings to mind the Audi Q7.
What Lincoln is hoping to do is offer more for less than the German competition. $39,940 is a great starting point for any small luxury crossover. With 300hp and a great starting price the MKC should find an audience.
The biggest problem Lincoln has is getting people to consider the brand. The executives at Ford and Lincoln are realistic and know it will take years for buyers to be aware of the brand and to accept its new products. By moving Lincoln away from Ford with separate designers, engineers and management will hopefully make Lincoln a strong brand yet again. This new MKC will arrive this summer and should get attention from buyers who want luxury but at an affordable price.