The Argument That Precipitated Lincoln’s Return To Conventional Model Names

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On Tuesday, Ford’s Lincoln Motor Company formally announced that it will ditch the “MK-” vehicle naming scheme and return to conventional names like “Continental” and “Navigator” across the entire product portfolio, each MK- nameplate being dropped as the vehicle wearing it undergoes a refresh, redesign, or retirement. The freshest example of this is the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus unveiled at the 2017 LA Auto Show, which is really just a mid-cycle refresh of the Lincoln MKX mid-size crossover.

While the question of whether or not to embrace conventional names is one that was debated internally at Lincoln for several years, the brand’s Director of Marketing, Sales, and Service, Robert Parker, tells Automotive News that the choice was validated months before it was ever announced to the press, by an argument the marketing head overheard on an airport shuttle.

Parker tells Automotive News that some months ago, as he was on a shuttle taking him from the airport terminal to his car, he happened to witness husband-wife argument. The couple had to tell the shuttle driver which vehicle model they owned so that they could be dropped at the right car. The only problem: they couldn’t come to a consensus on whether they’d bought a Lincoln MKZ, or a Lincoln MKC.

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“It just really punctuated the challenge for me,” Parker says. “It was like, OK, it’s not just an internal discussion. This is real. People that don’t work and do this every day have a hard time with numbers and letters. We sometimes, as marketers, get a little too far over our skis.”

The “MK-” nomenclature was brought out in 2006 as a nod to Lincoln’s old Continental Mark series; the “MK” is supposed to be read as “Mark”. Unfortunately, it just led to a confusing slurry of forgettable names that, for many customers, failed to reflect their respective products.

The switch to more conventional names for Lincoln’s product portfolio is a welcome one, and thankfully, we don’t have to worry about the brand getting caught up on one or two letters like Ford has been. (Consider the “Escape”, “Explorer”, and “Expedition”, or the “Fiesta”, “Focus”, and “Fusion”.) That’s because, according to Robert Parker, the person responsible for Ford’s E/F fixation is now retired.

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“We all loved him, but he was kind of stuck on Es and Fs.”

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Written by Aaron Brzozowski

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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