Lincoln Wins VSA – Most Satisfying Brand in AutoPacific 2014 Research

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Lincoln Motor Company Logo BigLincoln Wins VSA – The Lincoln Motor Company won AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award for top brand of the 2014 model year.  Lincoln has previously won in 2004 and 2011.  Based on queries from the press, many are surprised at the success of Lincoln in AutoPacific’s research.  After all, Lincoln is portrayed as being a brand struggling to survive in the hotly contested luxury vehicle market in the USA.

Solid Performance Accross the Range Lincoln is battling to rebuild itself.  Winning AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award shows that Lincoln is beginning to sell products worthy of winning their respective product categories.  The MKS Executive Car won its class.  The MKZ was the top Luxury Mid-Size Car and the MKZ Hybrid was the top Hybrid/EV Car.  The MKT Luxury Crossover SUV was a close second in its class.  Also, Lincolns are sold to buyers with a median age of 68-years, 11-years older than the typical new vehicle buyer.  It is an adage of automotive research that to achieve great satisfaction scores sell your products to your grandmother – older females being less critical.  Never sell to a young guy (much more critical – a proof of why Scion is the bottom ranked brand for 2014).  Winning AutoPacific’s VSA will help Lincoln re-build its image once word gets out to dealers, owners and prospective buyers, but it is not until new Lincoln products get launched that Lincoln resumes its place as a fully fleshed-out luxury brand in the USA.  We’ll watch to see if Lincoln can repeat its VSA win in 2015 after the new MKC small crossover SUV has been on the market for awhile.

Lincoln’s Recent History Shows It Has a Real Challenge  Lincoln has not broken the 100,000 unit sales mark since 2008.  After peaking at almost 232,ooo units in 1990, Lincoln’s next peak was 193,000 units in 2000 before a steady slide to 81,700 units in 2013.  Crosstown arch-rival Cadillac bottomed out at 109,000 units at the depths of the recent recession but has bounced back to 183,000 units in 2013, more than two times the sales of Lincoln.

The 2000 peak was just as Lincoln was joining Ford’s Premier Automotive Group (in Irvine, CA) being led then by ex-BMW bigwig Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle.  Reitzle, who had been Number 2 at BMW,  was determined to build a portfolio of luxury brands including Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, Volvo and odd-man-out Lincoln (and Mercury).  It is no coincidence that Lincoln’s last peak was in 2000 because Ford took its eyes off Lincoln and began a foray into the luxury car stratosphere that would prove to almost be the Company’s undoing.  Reitzle lasted from 1999 through 2002.  Reitzle was replaced by upcoming Ford CEO Mark Fields from 2002 through 2005 and Lewis Booth from 2005 through 2008 when PAG wound down by Ford selling off the European brands but keeping Lincoln (and Mercury for awhile).

Nomenclature Debacle  We cannot leave any discussion about Lincoln without mentioning the debacle of the nomenclature strategy Lincoln began implementing in 2007 by renaming the Zephyr Luxury Mid-Size Car the MKZ.  Ford executives are (in)famous for misstating Lincoln vehicle line names in presentations… MKS for MKZ; MKZ for MKC, etc.  If Ford and Lincoln execs can’t get it right how can they expect the media and even dealer salespeople to get it right?

China in Lincoln Future  Today, Lincoln executives talk a lot about their upcoming foray into China.  Beginning in late 2014, Lincoln will begin opening dealerships in populous cities in China and establish the “Lincoln Experience” as a new way of doing business in China.

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