How Ford can save Lincoln. No, really...
Ever since the 1990s Ford Explorer/Firestone tire fiasco, Ford Motor Co. has made much ado about nothing with its Lincoln luxury brand. Ford was ready with a bunch of rear-wheel-drive products that would separate Lincolns from the more plebeian front-drive Fords. But then the tire crisis nearly did Ford in financially, killing the unique RWD platform in the process, with Lincolns ending up as restyled Fords ever since.
But in the future, there will be no more stinking re-badges for Lincoln. That's according to Ford grand poo-bah of new products, Derek Kuzak in a recent Automotive News piece.
For the first time in recent memory, Lincoln is getting its own design team, its own powertrain engineers, and a list of exclusive features (push-button shifting controls; fully-retractable, all-glass roofs; continuously controlled damping; all-wheel drive in all models) that, apparently, will make sure customers can tell the difference between a Ford Fusion and a Lincoln MKZ.
Lincoln has been pimping its Ford Focus-based 2009 Detroit auto show C Concept (above) as evidence of just how different Lincolns will be from Fords in the future. If Lincoln can make the production car anything like the concept, that’s a start. But I’ve seen some spy shots of the next-gen European Ford Mondeo-based 2012 MKZ sedan over at Car and Driver. And like the current car, it doesn’t look that much different than the next Fusion to warrant its expected extra cost.
Sorry Derek. But that’s probably not enough. No, what Ford needs to do with Lincoln is the hard work that Nissan has done with its Infiniti brand. And more close to home, what General Motors has been doing with Cadillac for the past decade: unique styling, unique powertrains, AND unique body styles.
Now let’s assume the next Mondeo will continue to be offered as a four-door hatch and wagon. Why not offer the North American MKZ (which, for gawd’s sake Lincoln, needs to renamed the Mark Z, right?) with those body styles. In fact, you could call the hatch the Mark Z Continental. You know, just like those fancy-pants European luxury brands like Audi (A5 Sportback, A7), Porsche (Panamera) and Mercedes-Benz (CLS Shooting Brake) sell.
And instead of the expected Lincoln-badged Ford Escape replacement, how about a Mark Z Estate?
Of course, this strategy would be riskier and harder than just slapping on a toothy-grille on a bunch of Fords. But it may be Lincoln's only survival tact.
Do you think Ford is really serious about making Lincoln a real move up from mainstream Fords?
Or do you think Lincolns can survive as restlyed Fords?