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Lincoln Commits Suicide – Brand R.I.P.

Ford has all but guaranteed the demise of its luxury Lincoln brand through a series of strategy, marketing and product blunders not recently seen in the American car industry. In effect, Ford has forced Lincoln’s suicide. While we would like to write the epitaph now, Lincoln’s death seems like a long, slow, painful trauma that will provide fodder for the business press for the next decade. VehicleVoice counts the various ways Lincoln has been killing itself over the past couple of years.
Working backward:

Lincoln Shoots Itself in the Stomach by Cancelling V8 engine on 2009 Lincoln MKS (pronounced Em Kay Ess, not Mark S):
This guarantees Lincoln will no longer be a luxury brand but a premium brand like Acura or Buick. Maybe the MKS will be an OK car, but with AWD and only a 260-plus horsepower V6 it can, at best, be an “almost-Acura-RL” which is off-concept at best. Even rumors of a range topping Twin-Turbo V6 with well over 300 horsepower will not offset the lack of the needed V8.
Lincoln Shoots Itself in the Shoulder by Cancelling the Lincoln Town Car: The Lincoln Town Car has not pretended to be at the top of the luxury car heap for decades, but with few improvements over the years, Town Car devolved into the Executive Car loved by livery buyers. Few Town Car sales were for personal use. So Ford allowed the Town Car to deteriorate from any Luxury Car pretenses it may have had, and become a luxurious black taxi driven by cabbies with ties. Just think what Ford could have achieved if they had implemented a major major change on the rear wheel drive Panther platform. New Town Car, New Grand Marquis, New Crown Vic… all built in Canada. Now, put in the 300HP 4.6L V8 and you could have a something to talk about

Lincoln Shoots Credibility by Launching Zephyr and Then Changing Name: The Lincoln Zephyr is a pretty good car. It is mildly differentiated from the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, but carrying recognizable Lincoln cues. A year after Zephyr was launched the name is changed to MKZ (yep, initially pronounced “Mark Z” but now “Em Kay Zee”) with the addition of the all new 3.5L V6 engine and a major rethink of the car’s chassis tuning. If Lincoln had been smart and brave, they would have delayed the car until the engine and chassis were ready. Zephyr is a good name. Another wasted chance.
Lincoln Shoots Itself in the Groin by Changing to Alphanumeric Nomenclature: OK Cadillac did it, but that is no reason for Lincoln to change its naming strategy from names to letters. The most humorous thing here is that Ford has not internally been able to get this thing right. At one point they “officially” said that the names were pronounced “Mark X”, “Mark S”, “Mark Z”, but now they have shifted to pronouncing each letter “Em Kay Ex”, “Em Kay Ess”, “Em Kay Zee”. Acura found that shifting to alphanumeric nomenclature (for the same stated reason as Lincoln – to achieve more brand identity) cost them untold billions in brand equity.
Lincoln Shoots Itself in the Foot by Dropping LS: The LS Executive Luxury Car was a pretty good piece of work. Bland styling and substandard in the powertrain department, LS had the fundamentals to make a competitive entry in the middle of the luxury pack. As usual, Ford launched and left the LS to wallow without running changes to keep it competitive. Without a car in the middle of the range, a luxury brand is pretty hollow.
Lincoln Shoots Itself in the Knee by Restyling Navigator – What… NAVIGATOR? OK, in a further testament to a lack of strategy, Lincoln decided to keep the Navigator name (most likely because Cadillac kept the Escalade name for its Premium Luxury SUV instead of moving to SRE or something equally vague). If they were being consistent, this would be MKN… pronounced Em Kay En. Then the restyling is one of the most butt ugly updates in the history of the industry. Navigator needs a major front end freshening even before it is introduced.
So sad.


  • Ahmasi R Lloyd| August 3, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    I’ve been a Lincoln fan since childhood; my favorite is the 1955/56 Mark II, a classic American car that can stand head to toe with anything from Europe and certainly Asia.
    The devolvement (if there is such a word)of the town car into a taxi is one of the saddest events in motor history. Lincoln has a long way to go before it can look other luxury cars in the grill. I hope they wake up at Ford before we lose another American icon.

  • wallace pfeifer| July 13, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    I hate to see the Town Car disappear but if so,–I’ll just buy a Cadillac.

  • Mark Niefer| March 10, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    First, Ford should re-engineer the Town Car to at least approach the success of the Audi A8L. Audi’s big car is a big hit, so large cars aren’t dinosaurs as long as you build them to a high level of sophistication. Ford can take things a step further by putting the Ford Powerstroke Diesel into the next Town Car, to make this car more durable, and more efficient. A Standard shift option would be nice for people who want an American Performance Sedan, which America no longer seems to have.

  • Benjamin Fowke| January 23, 2007 at 9:19 am

    I am deeply disappointed that the Zephyr was discontinued. I have the ’06 model, thinking I may keep trading up in the successive years. The Zephyr is a really good car , nice to look at, great to drive with plenty of pick-up, good mileage, large trunk, fold down rear seats, easy to park. Wonder what will happen to the resale value-maybe it will become a museum piece with a rare and great price?
    Hi Benjamin:
    Yeah, we’re wondering if the ’06 Zephyr will become a collector’s item. From our point of view a name is better than an alphanumeric anyday and Zephyr is a great name with history. All that said, the subtle changes made to the ’07 MKZ transform the car from just another mid-size entry to an American Audi A4. It’s really sweet.

  • Dan Hall| August 25, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    Gerry McGovern’s 2002 Lincoln Continental Concept clearly expressed the direction the Lincoln brand should have taken. Considering the amount of “retro-future” designs coming out of Ford, one would think that 2002 Continental Concept would have been a fait accompli.

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