Despite the good reviews of the Spielberg film or the dropped jaws at the revelation that vampires were part of the Civil War, it is still too early to make jokes about President Abraham Lincoln. Apparently, it has never been too early to make a joke of The Lincoln Motor Company (as they are now called). I was excited to finally take a peek at the MK-S, a car I had ignored up until that time. I was not moved by the styling, a luxurious profile, but nothing really intriguing to look at — the ghost of Lincolns past has shown up again. I got inside and my heart sunk. The center stack looked as if it had been lifted from a car half its width. The buttons and knobs seem unfitting for a car of this size or price. This is the problem with Lincoln; they seem to “almost” make a good car. The LS, The Mark VII, The ’80’s Continental, all were good ideas that fizzled out like the third paragraph in a fifth-grader’s essay.
Ford wants Lincoln to be a viable brand again, but must face some harsh realities. LMC is not ready for Europe, not with the arsenal (or arsenic) they have in showrooms now. Please don’t flash that new MKZ in my face. It is a good start but it isn’t fluid enough to stand next to a Vauxhall and the back seat is far too tight for Chinese aristocracy. Next! Mr. Mullaly has approved a series of new model introductions and has decided to revamp the company entirely. Seems like “too much too soon”, after all, that may have been a good idea a few years ago, instead of rebadging the first Fusion, especially when you could have further developed the LS into a real Sports Sedan.
If Jim Farley and Matt Wolff are going to save Lincoln, they are going to have to peer over the fence and see that the competition isn’t just the other Leyland child; it’s Audi, Infiniti, BMW, Lexus and even Volvo (now divorced from the family). You can’t compete against an Audi A6 with a warmed-over Taurus. It will take more than MyTouch and a sliding roof to win buyers on this level. Despise me if you must, I’m just stating the facts.
I don’t claim to be a professional prognosticator or industry whiz, but I am an American and will, like many, soon be in the market for a new car. I also know that if Lincoln is going to get the attention of consumers, it will have to pull its pants up and follow a strict set of guidelines. Executive meetings are nice but somebody has to listen to the people that buy (or for some reason don’t buy) the cars!
First, design a car that will turn heads. Kick the bean-counter in the crotch and wait until the board room doors are closed for the night. No slab-sided refrigerator with an Art Deco front fascia and bright work. Create a design language that doesn’t allow non-car guys to say “That looks like a Ford to me…”. The problem is that Ford is used to taking the good stuff for itself. Take the time to design a good-looking car for a change.
Secondly, Lincoln goes on a strict punishment — NO CONCEPT CARS! We don’t want to see your future ideas, get your present together. Only press previews and design clinics. Let us see what you are doing before you bring it to market so we can stop these disasters from happening. No RWD cars for one entire design cycle – front-wheel and 4WD only. Until you develop a beautiful Grand Touring Coupe to compete with cars like the XKR, at which time, you may then use the Zephyr name, exclusively.
Fuel consumption is a big deal, be at the forefront. Performance is a deal-breaker, be at the head of the pack. Slap a performance (Escort SVT) motor into a sedan (the size of a Cadillac ATS) with tractability and decent fuel economy. Economic engine + nimble chassis=good car. Go to each luxury market segment and repeat the process.
Give everyone who bought an MKT a free turkey. This will better reflect what this vehicle really is. The Ford Flex has the presence, stance and image that the MKT was supposed to have. Ford has built a better Lincoln than Lincoln.
Nothing larger than V-6 with no less than 275 horsepower, wheelbases no longer than 114 inches to start with (unless it’s a flagship model). Phase out the letters. Use classic Lincoln names fitted to appropriate cars, not haphazardly strewn around.
Cadillac, Acura and even Hyundai revamped their entire lineup between 2002 and 2010 and continue to improve. Lincoln must think long term and Ford has to put a ring of commitment on their finger. Lincoln ownership has to – once again – feel like a privilege. The company is in trouble and needs the automotive press, focus groups, and consumers to keep it in check and focused on its mission: re-establishment, survival and profit.
The customers Lincoln needs are not well-to-do. The wealthy are snatching their deposits away from Maybach and putting them down on Mulsannes. Lincoln buyers are educated, professional, entrepreneurial and the upwardly mobile. However, they still drop their kids off at school and go to the local grocery store. If Lincoln can catch these folks before they plunk down more cash on 335i’s, E-350’s and IS-F’s with breakthrough tech, mouth-watering design, efficiency and competitive pricing, they still have a fighting chance. Mr. Farley, as you put future models on the world’s stage for audiences; I keep being reminded that Lincoln was killed in Ford’s Theater.