Lincoln: Where did the Elegance go?
Wiliam Maley - Editor/Reporter - CheersandGears.com
January 15th, 2011
"There's something about the look of the Continental II that invites hushed reverence when you are in its presence. Massive, austere, and sculptured, it seems hewn from the solid; a four-wheel piece of municipal architecture with that air of reserved – if slightly self-conscious – elegance that has defined all the best Lincolns." - Classic Cars – July 2004
Elegance would be the word I would use to describe Lincolns of the past; the Continental, Mark Series, Zephyr V12, and the Town Car to name a few. When a Lincoln pulled up to a restaurant, party, or a parking lot; people around would think the owner has made it. Even sitting presidents up to Regan rode in Lincolns. Now Lincoln has been relegated to the back of pack. The elegance it once had, now lost.
How did this car company lose its elegance? It started somewhere in the 1970's with a combination of new emission standards for the time and Arab fuel crisis. Automakers were rushing to have their vehicles meet the new emission standards. However to meet the new standards, performance and quality were sacrificed, causing damage that still lingers to this day. The 80's didn't help much at all with questionable design and build quality. However the downward trend stopped with Lincoln introducing the 1990 Town Car. The vehicle was heralded as a return of the American luxury car and won Motor Trend's Car of the Year. It appeared Lincoln was making a comeback, and the lineup was showing it with Mark VII, Continental, Navigator, and the LS. But then, it went belly up with once more with the Mark VII, Continental, and LS leaving the lineup and a decision to have vehicles either become a front or all wheel drive vehicle except for the Town Car or the Navigator SUV.
Looking at the current Lincoln lineup shows a group of vehicles that fall into two categories; vehicles that don't resemble Ford vehicles (Ex: Navigator, MKT) and the doppelgangers (Ex: MKX and MKZ). Also, the naming of vehicles for Lincoln; when did it become uncool to name a vehicle with an actual name? Instead we have to deal with MK plus a random letter from the alphabet.
Now, it looks like Ford is making a renewed effort to bring Lincoln back into the frame. They have announced eight new models are in the pipeline, introduced a new set of ads with Mad Men actor John Slattery, and infuse the brand with more money with the closing of Mercury. But is it really enough?
Not to Ford because at the North American International Auto Show this past week, Ford product boss Derrick Kuzak talked about Lincoln.
"The strategy isn't just new products, but full differentiation from the Ford brand in not only design, but in technology," said Kuzak.
Kuzak explained Lincoln would get different designs, engine choices, more technology, and dealers would be upgraded with new showrooms. However, a return to RWD vehicles is not on table for the time being.
Ford knows they have a limited a timeframe to get Lincoln into a position to get back some share in the luxury market. But adding technology and offering more diverse powertrains can only go so far. Lincoln seems to be playing follow the leader with every other luxury car maker when it really should be forging its own trail. What Lincoln really needs is an identity. It simply can't just copy one of its competitors nor have no identity. More importantly, it can't be a carbon copy of a Ford vehicle with a big grill and better interior. Lincoln needs to return to the 50's and 60's to draw some inspiration and get an idea of what identity they should choose; one of elegance.