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Does Ford’s Lincoln Brand Have A Place In North America Moving Forward?

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As much as Ford’s April announcement that it would soon all but pull out of the North American car market raised questions about the future of Ford Performance on the continent, it’s also made the future of The Lincoln Motor Company quite uncertain – perhaps even more so. After all, Ford has demonstrated that its dedicated performance division has a guaranteed place even in a Fiesta-less and Focus-less North America developing high-performance variants of Blue Oval SUVs like the Edge and Explorer. It’s a formula that can be applied just as many times as Ford can build a business case, whether on the EcoSport, Escape, Expedition, or – dare we say it – Bronco.

As far as Ford Performance is concerned, then, as the announcement of Ford’s impending car cull closed a door, it opened a window.

The same can’t really be said for The Lincoln Motor Company, which stands to lose both the midsize MKZ and full-size Continental luxury sedans when the Ford Fusion exits production sometime during 2021, so soon after losing the MKS. Ford hasn’t confirmed that this is the case, but it’s hard to imagine a world in which the automaker’s slow-selling luxury division gets to hold onto its sedan models as its namesake brand sheds them.

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Lincoln sold a total of fewer-than-40k sedans in the US in 2017. That’s hardly a blip on the radar for the world’s fifth-largest automaker by volume.

So, Lincoln in the North American appears destined to resign itself to cranking out posh, finely-appointed versions of some Ford SUV models. We say “some” because it seems rather unlikely the brand will ever offer its own version of the Bronco, or of Ford’s forthcoming small, off-road-oriented crossover. It’s hard to justify the cost of keeping the lights on at a whole separate brand for just four models: Corsair (MKC), Nautilus (MKX), Aviator (MKT), and Navigator.

That’s especially true when one considers 1) SUVs and crossovers tend to be comparatively high-margin automobiles already, meaning Ford can easily turn a profit on its own Blue Oval-branded models, and 2) high-priced, finely-appointed trucks like the Ford F-150 Limited and F-250 Super Duty Limited have demonstrated that North American buyers are in fact willing to pay big bucks for the right posh Ford, even despite its humble, non-luxury badge.

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Granted, The Lincoln Motor Company has received heightened attention from its parent in recent years, being allowed to open several “Experience Centers” across the country and conduct innovative experiments with things like a chauffeur service, fine dining discounts, and special events. Was it all for naught?

We hope not.

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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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11 Comments

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  1. I am a Lincoln MKZ hybrid CAR owner. Owned many. Future vehicle purchases will not be too high to step inside, too fossil fuel hungry, nor wasting allot of time plugging-in charging on my 1200 mile trips. Guess if Ford & Lincoln decide to produce more polluting heavy weight vehicles, I will no longer purchase from them. Electric vehicles force more demands from already overloaded power grid and increasing more power from already the #2 polluter, power plants.

  2. With the Navigator, Lincoln has shown they can pull off a winner with styling and an interior that rank well with others. Suicide doors alone will not create sustained growth in sales for the Continental. Attention to upgrading with at 10-speed transmission or a V-6 hybrid, an interior equal to the Navigator, and recouping some styling cues from the concept vehicle that were lost would help. One sees other manufacturers producing stunning concepts for luxury sedans, so they obviously do not believe that segment is dying. A friend has cynically opined that Ford is exiting the auto market in the US in order to reintroduce them as imports. Of course that was before we entered this “easy to win” trade war.

  3. “hard to justify the cost of keeping the lights on at a whole separate brand for just four models” good thing no one told Jeep and Porsche this, when they only had 2-3 models . You know the two highest valued name plates , who now produce numerous profitable models based on the reputation and solid desirability of their 2-3 core vehicles (Porsche 911+ boxter, Jeep- Wrangler & Cherokee). Caddilac’s only profitable model is the Escalade and SRX , (now replaced by 2 small SUVs). All Lincoln has to have is 2-3 core models, if anything the large cannibalistic lineups of forgettable cars, is what is wrong with boutique automakers. There are some people who say the f150 brand is worth more than Ford itself. Lincoln is on the right track. Only thing that will stumble their current strategy is Ford’s insistence on undercutting Lincoln by offering luxury trim on the equivalent Ford, on which the Lincoln is based. A Lincoln MKZ becomes superflorous, when a 40k fusion platinum exists. The Aviator seems like a slam dunk as long as Ford doesn’t offer a Limited Platinum King Ranch Eddie Bauer Ford explorer Trim for 10k less.

  4. I do in fact think Lincoln has a place as long as it doesn’t half execute it’s models.

    I feel the Continental was half-executed. It was a model on the wrong platform, with the wrong engines. The shape was also very wrong. Lincolns of the past were long hooded saloon cars with ample rear space. This new Continental just didn’t look the part. It didn’t look special. It didn’t look new. It just looked good. Not enough apparently.

    The Aviator is a great step forward. The Nautilus and the Corsair need to be more muscular. They also need to carry that long hood affect that made the Continental the premier luxury vehicle in it’s hay-day.

    I think Lincoln can make it, it just needs injection of fresh, young blood to pump up the shapes of it’s vehicles.

  5. Would it make sense for Ford to treat Lincoln in a similar way that Buick does Avenir. (May have misspelled) Make it a much higher trim option. It stays in the same somewhat upper class and stays at the Ford dealer as an aspiration vehicle. And a better margin one too.

  6. Lincoln has been doing some great things; the Navigator has been doing very well and selling like hotcakes. They just need to keep the momentum.

    We need a new Town Car… one that win take back American Luxury. I have a 99 signature and I drive feeling I own the road. Can’t say the same in a Continental.

  7. Last week I road tested a 2019 Lexus ES Ultra Luxury HYBRID. Listed nearly $56,000. It was big feeling and handled like a big barge. Braking was long. Horrible touch-pad NAV, Overall sloppy. I compared it to my present 2017 MKZ hybrid Reserve w/Luxury pkg. My 2017 MKZ looks better and handles better BUT barely gets 32-34mpg. Lincoln has a GOOD car but don’t get stale. Competition (ES) getting better as you debate shutting down. BOTTOMLINE: I ordered a 2019 MKZ hybrid Reserve II. I have reservation on me ordering a 2019 MKZ reading about uncertainty of Lincoln’s sedan future. As soon as I read definite closure on Lincoln hybrid sedans, I will quickly dump my 2019 MKZ for a competition hybrid!! NOT interested in plug-ins nor fully electric. Not a fan of stopping every 200-300 miles and charging for hours travelling 1200+ miles each way. It will add day(s) to my round trip!!!

  8. Who at Lincoln thought of renaming the MKC to “Corsair”? Sounds too close to the 60’s Chevy Corvair that Ralph Nader said it was “unsafe at any speed”?

  9. I am convinced since I have been driving Lincolns since 1964 that Lincoln has no chance of surviving with the present design leadership.
    Lincoln (read Ford) should consider merging Lincoln into the Genesis group, they know how to design automobiles.
    Also Ford et al has sold itself down the river with the over supply of electric cars as well as no more V8’s what a waste!
    Quality of design is gone at Ford & Lincoln!
    What ever happened to the promised Lincoln Town Car revivable & the return of the Mark, those are the only true luxury cars Lincoln has ever produced!

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