Ford Looks to (Finally) Revitalize Lincoln — Is It Enough?

If you ask most Americans to name a domestic luxury car manufacturer, nine times out of ten the answer is going to be Cadillac. Press them further still to name a second luxury car company, and I’m willing to bet the next work out of their mouth is Buick or Chrysler. Ford Motor Company’s 96-year-old Lincoln is all but forgotten. But that wasn’t always the case — Lincolns used to be the cars of the affluent. Every single president starting with Calvin Coolidge in 1923 until George H.W. Bush left office in 1993 rode in a Lincoln, not a Cadillac. Now that Ford’s dumped Mercury and is safely out of danger from the recession (being up 12.1 percent this year as of June 1), it’s looking to turn its attention to Lincoln.

“You think of BMW as engaging to drive; you can think of Lexus as refined. Bring them together and it is a new experience no customer has ever had,” said Ford’s head of global product development, Derrick Kuzak, in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal. That helps to give an idea of what Ford is going for when the next generation of Lincolns start being unveiled later this year.

The first redesigned Lincolns, the full-sized, Taurus-based MKS and the hearse/baleen whale-hybrid known as the MKT will be the first Lincolns to be aimed at those new customers. Ford hopes to attract new customers to Lincoln by loading its vehicles with high-tech gizmos such as retractable all-glass roofs and noise canceling technology similar to that in noise-cancelling headphones. Not only will the technology appeal to the techie crowd, but if it works it’ll save an untold amount of weight. Something like that could help Lincoln get the Lexus-like refinement it’s looking for, while also getting some of that BMW driving-DNA into it as well. To further help driving enjoyment, the MKS for example, will have an electronically-controlled suspension; probably with sport, comfort and touring modes similar to other luxury automakers” offerings. It also has been rumored that all future Lincolns will have all-wheel drive as either standard, or optional — à la Audi.

Ford has its work cut out for it, though. Facing a similar problem to what Cadillac and Buick faced a few years ago, Lincoln’s average buyers are increasingly geriatric. In fact, the average age of a Lincoln owner is 62 years old. That’s eight years older than the average Lexus driver and a whopping 13-years-older than the average BMW buyer. On top of that, Lincoln sold just 7,399 cars in the United States last month; most of those MKZs, essentially a rebadged Ford Fusion. Meanwhile, BMW sold more X3s than Lincoln sold in total; in fact the BMW brand sold almost three-times what Lincoln sold, with 20,651 vehicles moved.

Lincoln’s first salvo is set to be fired in November when the redesigned MKS and MKT are unveiled as 2012 models. The MKS and MKT are to be the first of seven all-new or redesigned Lincolns. Next up will be an all new Mondeo-based MKZ late next year, with the next four-models to be released throughout 2013 and 2014.

But is it enough? GM was able to bring around Cadillac’s resurgence on the back of the CTS sedan and strong design and marketing. What do you think it will take for Ford to be able to turn Linclon around? Or do you think Lincoln will be following Mercury to the big parking lot in the sky. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Source: The Wall Street Journal (Subscription Required)