“Lincoln Motor Company” opened for business

Image: aei-lincolnMKZ.jpg

James D. Farley, Ford Executive VP, outlines Lincoln Motor Company plans as Ford President/CEO Alan Mulally looks on. The MKZ shown is the first new product, and reaches dealers later this month.

Ford picked New York City’s Lincoln Center, a theatrical and music arts area, to “reboot” its luxury brand as the Lincoln Motor Company. It showcased the MKZ midsize sedan, which will reach dealers later this month, as the first of a four-product lineup to be introduced over the next five years, to revive the nameplate.

Making the case for the future of the brand, and outlining the product planning for the near future, was James D. Farley, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing. He was introduced by President and CEO Alan Mulally, who had given him the responsibility of shepherding Lincoln back into a competitive position.

Farley told a press conference that the MKZ also will be available in a hybrid edition that carries a 45 mpg rating. Both it and the conventionally powered model will be base-priced at $36,800, making Lincoln the first in its class to offer a full-feature hybrid at no extra charge. The MKZ is derived from the same global platform as the Ford Fusion, and the future Lincoln products also will start with platforms used by other Ford products. However, he contended this is not meaningful in terms of the final product, and said that Lincoln would have a great deal of exclusive content and, in every case, all unique sheet metal.

Regarding exclusives, he noted that a direct-injection version of the 3.7-L V6, rated at 300 hp (224 kW), will be a Lincoln exclusive at Ford, first as an option on the MKZ; the 2.0-L EcoBoost, rated at 240 hp (179 kW) is the base engine. Another is the MKZ’s control stack push-buttons for transmission shifting, which eliminate the console shift lever, opening the console area for other features and future development. Farley additionally said that high-performance all-wheel-drive systems and unique driving dynamics engineering would be among Lincoln-only features under the Ford umbrella.

The Lincoln showrooms will not be single-model Spartan until the future product arrives, Farley emphasized. The Navigator, which is scheduled for a major update in a year, will be a continuing product. Dealers also will have the MKX mid-size crossover, MKT full-size crossover, and MKS full-size sedan until models they are replaced. These three were refreshed within the last year.

In not-for-attribution comments, other Ford executives said that the next Lincoln model to come is a C-size crossover, developed from the world platform also used by the Focus and C-Max. The crossover is likely to be shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month, and be in dealerships within a year. It will compete with such European products as the Audi Q5.

Following the C-segment crossover will be a new midsize crossover to replace the existing MKX, and finally a full-size sedan to supplant the current MKS. The sequence is based on sales in the luxury market, 40% of which are the mid-size sedan represented by the MKZ. Although the full-size sedans were what the Japanese built to begin their luxury assault, they were new brands with only restyled mid-size mainstream sedans to accompany them.

For additional exclusive engine content, Ford reportedly is looking at specific new displacement, high-performance versions of existing powerplants, plus perhaps European engines (diesels?) hitherto not used in the U.S. The company’s only rear-drive architecture, another potential differentiator, exists in the form of the platform used by the Mustang, and it is being evaluated for luxury performance car use, a spokesman added. A truly exclusive, low-volume rear-drive product, he said, would require a partnership with a specialty maker to be cost-effective.

Matt VanDyke, who had been U.S. Marketing Communications Director, was named Director, Global Lincoln, in charge of the brands marketing, sales, and service.

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