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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.


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2015 Lincoln MKC – 2nd Volume Entry for Lincoln

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The 2015 Lincoln MKC hit Lincoln dealerships in June 2014 and promises to be the 2nd volume entry for Ford’s premium brand after the award-winning Lincoln MKZ.  Lincoln is the top brand in AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research and the MKZ and MKZ Hybrid are the winners of their product categories.  The MKC (getting confused with the alphanumeric nomenclature yet?) is joining a booming market for smaller crossover SUVs and, based on our brief drive of the vehicle, the MKC should do very well in AutoPacific’s 2015 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research.2015 Lincoln MKC F342015 Lincoln MKC R34

Excellent Package  The MKC is a “small” crossover SUV, but it does not feel small from the driver’s seat.  The front seating package is spacious.  Visibility forward is excellent.  Ergonomics are good.  Transmission shifting is through push buttons on the left hand side of the center stack.  The MyLincoln Touch system is more intuitive (but reading the channel numbers for SiriusXM is almost impossible because of tiny font sizes) and stable.  Losing the shifter in the center console is an excellent idea for many reasons.  It allows for more storage in the console and also allows the console to be narrower giving the front seat passengers more seat width.  The MKC is a persuasive package that will appeal to buyers across all age ranges.2015 Lincoln MKC Cockpit

Neat Features Abound on MKC  For those buyers who want the latest technology, MKC offers a lot.  Of course, there is MyLincoln Touch that sets the stage in the center stack.  There is Approach Detection where the vehicle reacts to the key fob approaching the vehicle at night and the headlamp accents, taillamp accents, door handle pockets and interior all light up.  There is even a Lincoln logo projected onto the pavement from the outside rear view mirror puddle lights.  Then there is Drive Control that includes continuously adjusting shock absorbers to provide a comfortable ride under all conditions.  Electric Power Steering and Active Noise Control are standard features that complement the Drive Control System.  Active Park Assist not only can park the MKC, but includes Park Out Assist to help the driver maneuver the vehicle out of a tight parking space.  As with many newly introduced vehicles there is a suite of electronic driver assist technologies:  lane-keeping system, driver alert system (checks driver alertness), adaptive cruise control, collision warning system with brake support, blind spot information system, and cross traffic alert.  These features may sound like overkill, but once you have used them, they become a necessity rather than a luxury.

Highly Differentiated from Escape – All EcoBoost Engines   The MKC is derived from the Ford Escape but shares no body panels or interior trim bits.  Without looking under the skin, the relationship is invisible.  The 2015 Lincoln MKC comes standard with a 240HP 2.0L EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine.  Optional is a 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder with 285-horsepower (with 93 octane gasoline – in California the top spec gas octane is 91 octane so the output for the 2.3L would be about 280HP).  The base vehicle is front wheel drive with all wheel drive available as an option.

Outstanding Dynamics  Starting in Santa Barbara and driving across the Los Padres National Forest to the Tejon Ranch , the MKC proves to be nimble and athletic on the twisty roads more suited to a sports car than a X-SUV.  With the 2.3L EcoBoost and AWD, the MKC is quick and solid over all road surfaces.

Price and Competition  The base price of the MKC is $33,995, but the versions Lincoln provided for the drive evaluation were all in the $50,000 range equipped with the full suite of electronic features and the big engine.  The size and price of the MKC puts it in the competitive set with the Cadillac SRX, Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X1, Infiniti QX50 (i.e. EX), Range Rover Evoque, Volvo XC60.  As if that isn’t enough competition, there is more to come:  Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3, Porsche Macan.  Clearly, buyers will have a tremendous challenge sorting out which of these smaller XSUVs to select.

Now for the Nit-Picks  Ford (Lincoln) can be depended on to make mistakes in feature availability.  For a company that touts “democratization of technology” (meaning the neat electronic features found on the top of the line will be available in a Focus, for instance) the base MKC cannot be had with an in-vehicle navigation system.  Since MyLincoln Touch is standard and each vehicle has a center stack screen, and the navigation system is via an SD card, navigation should be available on all models.

Brand Challenge  The only thing standing in the way of the MKC being a whopping success may the Lincoln brand.  While AutoPacific’s research shows Lincoln is doing a great job satisfying its customers, the brand has languished and is only now starting to re-assert itself.  The MKC is an outstanding addition to the Lincoln portfolio.  Now the challenge is to get buyers into the dealerships to drive and buy the MKC.  It will be interesting to watch how Lincoln markets the vehicle in the coming months and to monitor its sales performance.


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GM’s 2015MY Full Size SUVs

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GM’s 2015MY Full Size SUVs  General Motors has launched its new-for-2015MY full size SUVs.  While you might wonder why they care about launching these behemoths when the segment has fallen at the hands of expensive gasoline, these are mighty profit generators for the General even at relatively low volumes.  Last year, GM launched the pickups upon which these SUVs are based – the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra.  When they were launched these pickups were criticized because their styling was so evolutionary from their GMT900 predecessors.  But, it turns out that GM planners and engineers really know their stuff and the pickups have won kudos for their capability.  The Silverado was named the North American Truck of the Year.


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Reflections from the Detroit and Chicago Auto Shows

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Has the 2014 Auto Show Season been a bust so far? Well, with the exception of the all new Ford F-150, there has not been much to justify all the fabricated hoopla at either the North American International Auto Show in Detroit or the Chicago Auto Show. You can almost count the significant new news on one hand. In order of importance to the United States market and their manufacturers here are the most significant: Ford F-150, Chrysler 200, Honda Fit, Hyundai Genesis, Mercedes C-Class in Detroit and the Subaru Legacy in Chicago. OK, that is six significant entries. Others that might have made the list are the GMC Canyon mid-size pickup and the Lexus RC-F coupe. The Detroit Show ended up focusing on performance models or concepts like the production-ready Subaru WRX STI, Toyota FT-1 super car, Chevrolet Corvette ZO6 variant, BMW M3 sedan and M4 coupe, Cadillac ATS coupe. The only other vehicles of note at the Chicago Show were the 2015 Lincoln Navigator with new front and rear styling and the Mercedes GLA compact crossover SUV.


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Ford Owners Want Simpler, Easier to Use Technology

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MyFordTouch_Center StackIn AutoPacific’s annual survey of new car and light truck buyers, eleven of the top twenty vehicles whose drivers want simpler, easier to use technology are Fords or Lincolns. Six are from Toyota or Lexus. One is from Cadillac. One is from BMW. One is from Audi. If you have been paying attention to Ford’s standings in Consumer Reports ratings and other customer satisfaction measurements, you undoubtedly have heard Ford’s and Lincolns ratings have dropped precipitously since MyFord/LincolnTouch was introduced.


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Porsche Macan – Hubba Hubba

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2015 Porsche Macan F342015 Porsche Macan R34Porsche is broadening its line adding a compact crossover SUV (XSUV) beneath its highly successful Cayenne SUV.  The Porsche Macan is named after an Indonesian tiger.  Not so unusual since the Cayenne is named for a pepper and Cayman after an alligator.  While Porsche purists may cringe that the brand is adding one more vehicle line that has four doors, the Macan will add volume to Porsche around the world and add greatly to its already heady profits.  Limited to only 50,000 units a year from its Leipzig, Germany factory, the volume will be split roughly one-third for the USA, one third for the EU and one third for the rest of the world.  With the USA limited to “only” about 15,000-18,000 units per year dealers can hold out for nice profits especially in its early years.

Factoid:  More Porsches now sold have four doors than two.

Go to the Porsche Cars North America website and check out the configurator (http://www.porsche.com/usa/modelstart/all/?modelrange=macan) for the Macan.  Sure, the vehicle starts at $49,900, but I quickly got one specced out the way I would want it up to $66,000.  PCNA expects the median transaction price for the Macan to be around $73,000.  For those of you who check all the boxes and choose the upmarket turbo model, you can spend over $100,000 for a Macan Turbo.  Given the complexity of the Porsche configurator, the bet is that most of them will be ordered rather than bought from dealer stock.

The Macan S is priced similarly to the base Cayenne.  This telegraphs Porsche’s strategy of adding a less pricey base Macan later.  Following Porsche’s strategy of launching with the mid-range vehicle and then adding a lower priced version, expect a less expensive Macan down the road simply called “Macan”.

Macan is to be the sportiest compact XSUV on the market.  The $49,900 model is the Macan S powered by a 340HP 3.0L Turbo V6.  For those wanting even more power, the Macan Turbo has 400HP and adds about $16,000 to the price tag.  All Macans have all wheel drive and Porsche’s 7-speed PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung) transmission (automatic).  The Macan S is no lightweight coming in at over 4000 pounds, but it can get up to 60mph in 5.2 seconds according to Porsche’s data.

2015 Porsche Macan CockpitThe Macan is loosely based on the Audi Q5, but 70% of the parts are new to Porsche.  The exterior is clearly all Porsche.  Porsche DNA is evident in the face of the vehicle, the shape of the roof, the wheel openings, even the haunch over the rear wheels.  To give the Macan a lower, sports car feel, the seating positions are a bit lower than in the Q5 and the rear seat is pretty tight.  But being the sportiest compact XSUV, these things are expected.  The interior is a special place indeed.  The instrument panel is well-laid out and the switchgear on the console is reminiscent of the Porsche Panamera.  The steering wheel comes from the 918 Spyder.

Other XSUVs were introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show and will be on the market at the same time as the Macan – the smaller 2015 Lincoln MKC and the mid-size 2015 Ford Edge.  Compared with the new Edge, the Macan is about three-inches lower, and its wheelbase about 1.5 inches shorter, but the shadow of the two vehicles is nearly identical.  For all intents and purposes the overall lengths and widths are the same.  With the Ford getting a bit sportier for 2015 with a faster backlite, its silhouette is even similar to the compact XSUV sports car – the Macan.  Checking all the boxes on the Ford can get its price up to the mid-forties.  But even though the vehicles are similar specification- and style-wise, they will attract dramatically different buyers.

Which brings us to the Lincoln MKC.  Based on the Escape platform, MKC has a starting price of $33,995 quite a difference from the Macan.  Of course the Lincoln will not have the powertrain or performance chops of the Macan, and its price will not reach into the hundreds of thousands.  Loading up the MKC might get its price over $50,000.  Somehow, the well-equipped Macan at $66,000 seems like a better value.2015 Porsche Macan Cargo Area


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Lincoln Black Label – Top Level Trim Does Not Make a Flagship

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I have to admit that I’m rooting for Lincoln.  I used to work there and the Lincolns were “my” cars – Lincoln Continental Town Car, Lincoln Continental Town Coupe (yep, there was a Town Coupe in 1981), (eh hem, the Granada/Monarch-based Lincoln Versailles dubbed the “Mini Mark”), the Fox-based Lincoln Continental, and the Lincoln Continental Mark VI Coupe and Mark VI 4-door.


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2013 Lincoln Motor Company MKZ: Little More Zest, Less Zzzzz

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The last time I drove an “entry level” luxury car that shared bones with some of Ford’s European DNA was my 2002 Jaguar X-Type 2.5 Sport with a manual transmission.  Haters can hate but I liked that car because it was more Ford than Jaguar.  Before the X-Type I had a 2001 Focus ZX3 and before that I had a Mercury Cougar.  The front-wheel drive one that was made in Michigan and exported to Europe.  Before that I had a 1996 Contour Zetec 5MT.  A 1999 SVT Contour was also in there somewhere.  Regardless, I’ve always been jealous of what Ford has offered in Europe.  I did what I could to get my hands on the closest thing to a European Ford, even if it wasn’t always the real deal.


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Women Drivers More Satisfied than Men

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An automotive industry truism is that it is easier to satisfy your grandmother than a young man.  Is this true?  At least the gender portion of the statement is accurate.

Driver satisfaction is a critical measure of vehicle acceptance.  Having a satisfied buyer results in better loyalty, better word-of-mouth, stronger image.  Satisfaction is a central building block of a brand.  AutoPacific has been measuring driver satisfaction since 1993 and it is always instructive to look at the differences between women and men drivers.

In AutoPacific’s annual 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction research, women drivers score 39 rating points higher than men – 674 over 635 in their overall Vehicle Satisfaction score.

Cadillac Tops Satisfaction Among Women While the top four brands in the satisfaction hierarchy are the same – Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Lincoln – the scores given them by women are much higher.  Cadillac up 50 rating points.  Mercedes up 16 rating points.  Lexus up 41 rating points.  Lincoln up 42 rating points.  Interestingly, the rating for Fiat – perhaps the ultimate chick’s car – is at the bottom of the list among women but still higher by 29 rating points than among men.

Infiniti FX - Top in Satisfaction Among Women

Models With Touches of Luxury Score Better With Women In terms of individual vehicles the top twelve satisfying vehicles among women are:  Infiniti FX at 774 (+94 rating points higher than men), Chrysler 300 at 767 (+89 rating points), Lexus ES at 742 (+40), Cadillac SRX (+48), Mercedes C-Class at 735 (+50), Buick Enclave (+57), Honda Crosstour at 729 (+73), Lincoln MKS at 728 (+50), Range Rover Evoque at 728 (+43), Lincoln MKX at 726 (+58), Honda Odyssey at 725 (+40), Lexus RX at 725 (+43).  The lowest vehicle line among women is the Nissan LEAF at 550 rating points.  The highest scoring vehicle among men is the Mercedes-Benz ML practically tied with the Cadillac Escalade.  The lowest vehicle line among men is the Mazda2 at 502.

Women are More Satisfied With a Comfortable Stuff Hauler Women are much more satisfied with Fuel Economy (+8.3%pts), Warranty (+6.9%pts), Collision Avoidance Technology (+6.9%pts), 3rd Row Seat Comfort (+6.8%pts), 2nd Row Seat Comfort (+6.3%pts), Flexible/Changeable Seating (+6.5%pts), Rear Seat Entertainment System (+6.4%pts), Roof Rack (+6.0%pts), Price/Monthly Payments (+6.0%pts), Convertible Top (+6.0%pts).  Many of these attributes are characteristics of vehicle types very popular with women drivers like Sport Utility Vehicles and Minivans.  They want a comfortable vehicle with a good warranty that gets good fuel economy.  They want the interior to be flexible and provide entertainment for their children.  They are more satisfied with an affordable stuff hauler useful with children.


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2012 Lincoln MKZ Most Satisfying Luxury Mid-Size Car

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Best In Class 2012 Luxury Mid-Size Car:  Lincoln MKZ

2012 Lincoln MKZ Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

The top satisfying Luxury Mid-Size Car is the Lincoln MKZ for the second year in a row.  The owners of the MKZ gave the car top scores in 11 of 48 attributes contributing to AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award research.  The Lincoln MKZ is the top satisfying car in its class in Rear Seat Comfort, Exterior Color, Braking, Ride, Quietness, Interior Lighting, Infotainment Technology (MyLincoln Touch), Dealership Experience, Use of Recyclable Materials (using soy-based seat foam),  Collision Avoidance Technology and Warranty.  With a possible high rating of 5.0 on each of 48 characteristics, owners of the MKZ rated the car at 4.6 or higher on several, including:  Overall Satisfaction, Exterior Size, Vehicle’s Reputation, Brand’s Reputation, Exterior Color, Handling, Ride, Feeling Safe While Driving, and Overall Quality.   Owners were least satisfied with Fuel Economy and Driving Range.


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