New Naming System Gives Zephyr a Short Life
At the 2006 Detroit auto show, a mere month ago, Lincoln announced they would call the Aviator replacement (on sale in Fall 2006) the MKX. They also showed an expected direction for an LS replacement called the MKS, and indicated their intent to change to an alphanumeric naming strategy. At the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, Lincoln discreetly unveiled the 2007 model year Zephyr, except that it is now renamed MKZ. AutoPacific Vice President and VehicleVoice correspondent Jim Hall has commented elsewhere in this blog on Lincoln’s strategy twists and turns, so we’ll leave that to him and stick with an overview of the vehicle changes for you here. By the way, pronunciation has been settled. These should be referred to as Mark X, Mark S, and, now, Mark Z.
Though the Zephyr can be called brand-new, having been on sale for less than six months, it is renamed MKZ for the 2007 model year. Along with the name change comes a 3.5L V6, AWD, and some minor exterior tweaks. Suspension, safety features, and interior continue unchanged. The MKZ was introduced with comparatively little fanfare at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, with the new-for-2007 Navigator clearly taking center stage.
The Madness at Lincoln Continues.
Over that last two and a half months, Ford Motor Company has been misrepresenting its new naming strategy for future Lincolns. At an early reveal of the Lincoln MKS, Ford’s North American Supremo Peter Horbury called the car the “Mark Ess.” Yet at the Detroit autoshow a couple of weeks later, the model was verbally referred to as the “Em-kay-ess” by Ford management and P.R. types. Concurrently the Aviator replacing crossover utility was called the “Em-kay-ecks.” That’s MKX in badgespeak.
At the Chicago show this week, Lincoln unveiled a lightly restyled and reengineered Zephyr that will be called the MKZ. In the press release materials for the successor to the Zephyr, the car is identified as the “Mark Zee.” C’mon guys, make up you minds.
Lincoln has devised a new nomenclature system for all future models. The company that originally brought us Continental, Capri, Premier, Lido and Zephyr has decided to move to a new, apparently consultant savant-based, alphanumeric naming standard. So the just released new Lincolns like the Lincoln Mark LT luxury pickup and Lincoln Zephyr already violate the new strategy.
VehicleVoice correspondent and head of AutoPacific’s Industry Analysis operations weighs in with his opinion on Lincoln’s new naming scheme.Jim Hall
Lincoln Goes Alphanumeric Crazy – MKX, MKS
The first production vehicle to use the new methodology is the crossover successor to the unappreciated Aviator. It will be called the MKX. As in “em-kay-ecks.” Some folks are calling it the “Mark Ecks.” Which is right?
A new all-wheel-drive sedan near-flagship to debut late in 2007 will be called the MKS (em-kay-ess). As I’ve previously said, there’s no such thing as a bad name for a good vehicle as long as you stop short of calling a product the Monkey Pus V100.
Will the Zephyr Be Renamed MKZ?
The MKn theme will continue to be rolled out when the recently introduced Zephyr receives some major revisions for the 2008 model including a more powerful 3.5L engine, all-wheel-drive and significant sheetmetal changes up front. When this happens, you can expect the Zephyr nameplate to be once again filed away in the dead badge cabinet for another decade or two and the entry model to wear some manner of MK moniker (MKZ?) on its trunklid. With the Zephyr on sale for a scant two model years, the rebadging is unlikely to cause any significant hiccoughs beyond some incremental marketing costs to establish the car’s new handle.
The Lincoln MKS Concept shown at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit will likely be added to the Lincoln lineup in 2007 as a 2008 model year vehicle. Attending an early December 2005 review of Ford auto show concept cars in Dearborn, VehicleVoice and AutoPacific analysts were struck by the Japanese and European ambiance of the car. The MKS has the presence of an Acura TL with some styling cues from Chris Bangle’s BMWs.
The MK S is another derivative of the Volvo S80 platform which is also shared with the Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego and Ford Freestyle. The MK S is all wheel drive and uses the Yamaha-Volvo 315HP 4.4L V8 engine found in the Volvo XC90 luxury sport utility vehicle. The MK S is deceivingly large with an 114-inch wheelbase and 204-inch overall length making it slightly larger than the Ford Five Hundred and substantially larger than the Acura range-topper, the RL. It is about the same overall length as the long wheelbase BMW 7-Series, but with a much shorter wheelbase.
While some of our staff would prefer for Lincoln to go the route of Cadillac with rear wheel drive platforms, the MK S appears to have the presence and credibilty to replace the Lincoln LS Executive Luxury Entry.
Now, the next question… what will the replacement for the venerable Lincoln Town Car look like and how large will it be? Will the next Town Car be the MK T?
Ford’s press release for the MK S is shown below
Crossover SUVs will outsell Traditional truck-based SUVs beginning in 2006. This forecast comes from George Pipas, Ford’s Manager of Sales Analysis and Reporting in a presentation in Long Beach, CA on December 12, 2005. Refer to the VehicleVoice Blog on December 8 citing a USA Today article on similar observations.
A Few Comments on What a Crossover SUV Is
Pipas’ analysis charts the meteoric rise of Traditional SUVs during the 1990s and the similarly meteoric rise of Crossover SUVs since 1996 when the first crossovers – the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 – were introduced. Of course, defining SUV categories is getting murkier and murkier. VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) have used the “at-a-glance” rule to define SUVs. If you can, at-a-glance, tell that a vehicle is an SUV, then by golly it is an SUV. In this way you are not confused about whether it is car-based or truck-based. (Pipas contends that only about 70% of Crossover SUVs meet this at-a-glance requirement with 30% easily confused as cars, hatchbacks, or wagons.)
Traditional SUV 2007 Cadillac Escalade – Category Expected to Decline as a Percentage of Overall SUV Universe
The auto industry thinks differently and often gets caught up in definition problems. They have variously called car-based SUVs “hybrids” (a term since adopted by gasoline-electric ‘hybrid’ powerplants) or “crossovers”. In our research, we have found that folks really have not yet adopted the crossover term and still like to refer to SUVs as SUVs. But enough about splitting hairs about what is a crossover and what is not.
General Motors is getting ready to launch its new GMT900 SUVs. This lineup includes the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, GMC Yukon XL, Cadillac Escalade and Cadillac Escalade ESV. The shorter versions will be launched in the 1st Quarter 2006 as 2007 model year vehicles. The long wheelbase Suburban, et. al. will be launched in March or April.
Early reviews of the GMT900 provided in Burbank, California (GM’s California Design Studio) and Warren, Michigan (GM’s Design HQ) prove that the GMT900s are an excellent piece of work. While they do not look too much different from their predecessors, they have wider front and rear track and larger tires and wheels. This gives the GM SUVs a very purposeful stance avoiding the undertired appearance some past GM vehicles have had. At the same time, the more prominent tires and wheels actually make the vehicles look slightly smaller even though they aren’t.
Lack of Fold Flat 3rd Row a Major Omission
To keep these comments focused on what we want to observe, lets change the order a bit.
The most glaring omission in the GMT900 SUVs is the lack of a 3rd row seat that folds flat into the floor like the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator and now the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer. The key to the Ford system is the use of an independent rear suspension that allows the rear floor to be dropped several inches providing space for the seat to fold flat. GM’s GMT900 management said they “couldn’t break Ford’s code” and it appeared that they were thinking Ford adopted IRS more for ride and handling than for interior package. WRONG. The key all along was the rear seat package.
The resulting seating package is very similar to the GMT800 SUVs. The seats, when folded, rest on top of the floor obstructing the load area of the vehicle.
GM also claimed their research showed that SUV buyers wanted a power folding 2nd row seat more than they wanted a flat folding, power operated 3rd row seat. According to ex-GM researchers who shall remain anonymous, GM’s research actually showed a strong preference for “a seat like in the Expedition in a body like the Suburban”. The real reason, of course, is investment. The expenditures for the combination of IRS and fold flat 3rd row seat has variously been quoted as $165 million or $300 million. Either number would cause a product planner to pause and clearly these very important features were pipped – not easily.
Fusion Hot Out of the Blocks
Fusion is Ford’s new mid-size sedan and is a very respectable piece of work. It has distinctive styling, a good sized interior and a large trunk. This combination puts Fusion in the hunt to attract buyers of mid-size cars that have been unable to consider a Ford since the demise of the easily forgotten Ford Contour (and who can’t forget its predecessor – the Tempo). For the first time in years, Ford has a competitive mid-size entry worthy of consideration. The first full month of sales for the Ford Fusion was October, 2005. Fusion, right out of the blocks, looks like a surprise winner with slightly over 4,000 units sold.
In a departure from conventional mid-size car marketing, Ford says they are not going after buyers who would consider the high volume Japanese entries like Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. Instead, they think they can have a pretty healthy business selling to Mustang owners who are moving into a mid-size sedan after their fling with the most popular sporty coupe on the planet.