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Lincoln Plans 7 New Models, Including First-Ever C-Segment Vehicle

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Lincoln Plans 7 New Models, Including First-Ever C-Segment Vehicle

By Nelson Ireson

Editor

June 2nd, 2010

As Mercury slides quietly into the night, Ford is prepping Lincoln for a new-product burst, including seven all-new or significantly refreshed models coming over the next four years. The most interesting addition may be the brand's first-ever C-segment vehicle, which could be based on the svelte Lincoln C Concept.

The C Concept, first unveiled at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, was billed at the time primarily as a vehicle for demonstrating upcoming connectivity technology. With a new Focus platform headed to the U.S., however, Lincoln may get a version of the car's underpinnings inside a C Concept-esque production car. Lincoln has yet to reveal any details on the upcoming car, however.

Ford also plans to push Lincoln into more "refined, modern design" territory, with "an unexpected blend of responsive driving enjoyment and warm, inviting comfort." Cutting through the corporate-speak, that likely means fresh faces on existing Lincoln models plus the addition of EcoBoost models to all vehicles in the Lincoln range, including the Navigator and the C-Segment car. An all-new V-6 engine is also on the docket.

Look for more focus on high-tech convenience options, not unlike Lexus and BMW, including push-button gear selectors and computer-controlled suspensions. The MyLincoln Touch connectivity technology and further SYNC development are also a given.

As for the models, a "significantly refreshed" 2011 MKX is due later this year, and will debut the MyLincoln Touch tech. The remaining six new/refreshed vehicles will be spaced over the coming four years.

Finally, Lincoln will be working to improve its dealership experience to better compete with recognized successes like Cadillac and Lexus.

So far it's a lot of good talk, and we'll have the revamped MKX later this year to evaluate the first steps in the new direction, but we'll have to see how the market takes to the Lincoln brand even if the product does come along.

[Ford]

link:

http://www.motorauthority.com/blog/1045769_lincoln-plans-7-new-models-including-first-ever-c-segment-vehicle

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I hope the Lincoln compact car doesn't look anything like the hideous C Concept. I think Lincoln will have a huge fail on its hands if it does. If Lincoln is serious about entering the compact car segment, then I think they should develop a Suzuki Kizashi size sedan on a stretched version of FoMoCo's C-platform. This compact sedan would feature styling that is significantly influenced by the MKR Concept (except that I wish that Lincoln would significantly shrink the dual wing grille; I think it wouldn't look so awkward and garish if it wasn't so big). Coupe-cabrio and wagon variants would join the sedan. This compact sedan would introduce an improved model designation system for car products at Lincoln. This new compact sedan (and accompanying coupe-cabrio and wagon) would be named "Mark III", the successor to the current MKZ would be named the "Mark VI", and the successor to the current MKS would be named the "Mark IX". I chose "III", "VI", and "IX" because it represents a size progression in the car lines and it also allows different characters in roman numeral form to avoid confusion. I also think "V" (Five) and "X" (Ten) would be more likely to be misinterpreted as letters instead of numbers. Having the numbers spaced three numbers apart also seemed like a nice progression to represent the size classes.

A future Lincoln compact CUV could be built on the same version of the C-platform that will underpin the next gen Kuga/Escape. This new compact CUV will introduce actual model names to Lincoln's CUV products. "Plateau" would be the name of this new CUV. When the successors to the current MKX and MKT reach the market, they will adopt model names instead of their current meaningless "MK(?)" model designations.

I would also like to see a midsize RWD sports sedan and coupe cabrio developed on a stretched version of the Mustang's D2C platform and fitted with an IRS. The sedan would be the "Continental S By Lincoln" and the coupe-cabrio would be the "Continental C By Lincoln". I know that this is probably just a pipe dream that will never see the light of day.

Just my thoughts...

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I also think that the MKT needs an emergency restyling where the sloping bustleback is replaced by a more conventional upright design. I know that the sloping bustleback adds character and prevents this CUV from looking like a tall station wagon (as well as differentiating it from its Flex platform mate), but it looks more awkward than stylish. I also think the dual wing grille would look better if it were cut in half so that it flows off the bottom edge of the headlights. I'm really not a fan of this grille design, but it would look much better if it weren't so massive. I think Acura has proven that garish, "in-your-face" grilles aren't always the best way to draw attention to a brand.

Just my thoughts...

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As for the article, it's all a bunch of blah, blah, blah. Bluster, a diversion from the fact that Ford's latest efforts to "revitalize" Lincoln have failed to outsell its longtime lotmate... Mercury. And with Mercury's pathetic sliver of a lineup, too. Ford has no clue what to do with a mid- or upmarket brand.

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Ford's real luxury car these days seems to be the upscale versions of the F-150 and Super Duty. My local Ford dealer is packed with F-150's, but only a handful of each of the car models. I think if it weren't for CAFE and the UAW, Ford would become strictly a truck manufacturer.

I think Lincoln will be gone within 10 years.

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I just don't get Ford anymore. :mellow:

I think Lincoln will be gone within 10 years.

That would be such a shame.

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BTW:

This is a bustle back.... not that ugly Kia-Rincoln.

original.jpg

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I'm liking Lincoln's direction with their new products. They're definitely not chasing after the austere, Teutonic, Nurburgring-bred Germans, but doing something unique, casual, and distinctly American instead. I'm a huge fan of the MKS and MKT interiors.

I'm a fan of the Citroen C6 approach to luxury - comfort and elegance over performance.

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I'm liking Lincoln's direction with their new products. They're definitely not chasing after the austere, Teutonic, Nurburgring-bred Germans, but doing something unique, casual, and distinctly American instead.

The Lincoln of today is nothing like the American luxury cars of yesteryear. In fact, Lincoln is now nothing more than an American Acura. Bbooorrrriiiiinnnnnnnnngggggggggg.

Could we please see a modern interpretation of this?

1963_lincoln_continental.jpg

Wait a second ...

Lincoln-Continental-Concept-02.jpg

Well, damn. They didn't build that, did they?

Well, Ford, how about making a "spiritual heir" to the stately old Continental at the very least? Okay? You can do that?

lincoln-mkr-340.jpg

Simply awesome ... aside from ripping off the '71 Oldsmobile Cutty grille anyway. What's that? You won't build this either, Ford? FFUUUUU-

I'm a huge fan of the MKS and MKT interiors.

I will give some credit here and say they are quite nice. But the reality is that these are thinly dressed up versions of what you get in a Taurus and Fusion (especially when it comes to the MKS and Taurus in this case).

I'm a fan of the Citroen C6 approach to luxury - comfort and elegance over performance.

Well Lincolns are comfortable enough to drive Grandpa to sleep in. As for elegance, well ... that I'm not so sure on. The MKS looks like a Ford designer wanted to sketch out a an early '70s retro 2010 Cutlass sedan but wound up doodling up an Acura with a dual port grille instead. I fail to find that car inspiring. In fact, there is more Americana baked into the new Taurus than the MKS. Additionally, styling-wise, the square shouldered Taurus looks like the grandson of the square-shouldered and broad-jawed classic Conti posted earlier. Anyone who would want to buy the Lincoln over the Ford in this case is a damned loon.

Edited by whiteknight

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The Lincoln of today is nothing like the American luxury cars of yesteryear. In fact, Lincoln is now nothing more than an American Acura. Bbooorrrriiiiinnnnnnnnngggggggggg.

Could we please see a modern interpretation of this?

1963_lincoln_continental.jpg

Wait a second ...

Lincoln-Continental-Concept-02.jpg

Well, damn. They didn't build that, did they?

Well, Ford, how about making a "spiritual heir" to the stately old Continental at the very least? Okay? You can do that?

lincoln-mkr-340.jpg

Simply awesome ... aside from ripping off the '71 Oldsmobile Cutty grille anyway. What's that? You won't build this either, Ford? FFUUUUU-

I will give some credit here and say they are quite nice. But the reality is that these are thinly dressed up versions of what you get in a Taurus and Fusion (especially when it comes to the MKS and Taurus in this case).

Well Lincolns are comfortable enough to drive Grandpa to sleep in. As for elegance, well ... that I'm not so sure on. The MKS looks like a Ford designer wanted to sketch out a an early '70s retro 2010 Cutlass sedan but wound up doodling up an Acura with a dual port grille instead. I fail to find that car inspiring. In fact, there is more Americana baked into the new Taurus than the MKS. Additionally, styling-wise, the square shouldered Taurus looks like the grandson of the square-shouldered and broad-jawed classic Conti posted earlier. Anyone who would want to buy the Lincoln over the Ford in this case is a damned loon.

I agree with you about the 2010 Taurus. The exterior of the Taurus looks more upscale and distinctive than the MKS. The exterior of the Taurus is definitely closer to what I envision as a modern Lincoln design.

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The horizontal theme of the Taurus makes it look bigger and more authoritative than the MKS... plus, yes, it has plenty of Ford DNA, with its Mustang shoulders and interior, and Galaxie taillights. The Lincoln has the shield grille, but otherwise has no Lincoln DNA. Admittedly, Lincoln is trying to build a design theme now with their front ends, but besides the Continental and Mark, what iconic Lincolns can they draw from? The Lincoln brand has a thin record of continuous design heritage... unlike Cadillac, with their timeless eggcrate grille and tailfin taillamps.

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The horizontal theme of the Taurus makes it look bigger and more authoritative than the MKS... plus, yes, it has plenty of Ford DNA, with its Mustang shoulders and interior, and Galaxie taillights. The Lincoln has the shield grille, but otherwise has no Lincoln DNA. Admittedly, Lincoln is trying to build a design theme now with their front ends, but besides the Continental and Mark, what iconic Lincolns can they draw from? The Lincoln brand has a thin record of continuous design heritage... unlike Cadillac, with their timeless eggcrate grille and tailfin taillamps.

I know I'm in the minority on this, but I don't really care for Lincoln's current "face". It's distinctive, but sometimes that's not a good thing. If I had my preference, I would like to see Lincoln develop a high tech looking version of the full width grille treatment that graced the front of the 2002 Continental Concept. I like the way the headlights appear as though they are incorporated into the grille. The Zephyr Concept tried to mimic this look, but it got diluted quite a bit when the production Zephyr/MKZ came out. To me, this kind of treatment would give Lincoln a "face" that is both attractive and distinctively "Lincoln". The current Lincoln "face" is not as hideous or offensive as Acura's cheese slicer grille, but it's not one of the better looking ones either.

As far as an overall design language, I think the MKR Concept should take the lead as far as inspiration or influence is concerned (except for the grille, which is the only thing about the MKR Concept that I didn't like). I think the MKR Concept embodies what a modern Lincoln sedan should look like: strong shoulders, straight edges balanced by well placed curving surfaces, full width taillights intersected by the Lincoln badge, slightly formal looking roofline, etc. If Lincoln could create a sedan that looked like that, then I think people would take notice. The MKZ and MKS aren't bad looking sedans, but neither one is particularly memorable or distinctively "Lincoln". Hopefully, FoMoCo's renewed focus on Lincoln will result in some killer designs that will make people think they must own a Lincoln. That's the kind of passion that Lincoln design needs to evoke; people need to think that they can't live without that sharp looking Lincoln! The current lineup is simply not there yet.

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I know I'm in the minority on this, but I don't really care for Lincoln's current "face".

I'm right there with you. Point out that old relic '30s Lincoln all you want, guys, the front of the MKR concept and others looks like a rip-off of this:

dana71.jpg

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I think Lincoln had more going on with the first gen MKX look. It was distinctive and looked like a Lincoln.

I wish there was a modern way to do an upright grill like the mid-80s Towncar without going to a Rolls Royce look.

  • Upvote 1

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I think the MKS and MKZ are nice looking sedans, I like the front end look. But there is nothing special about them, they are just fancier versions of a Ford. The current Lincolns just don't have much of anything to wow buyers into wanting one. A luxury product needs some wow factor and something to stir the emotions of the buyer.

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After comparing them at a car show, I do like the exterior design and details of the MKs, but find the dash design and overall interior design of it's Taurus sibling more appealing. Wierd...

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Lincoln lineup to expand, create identity apart from Ford brand

Jamie LaReau

Automotive News -- August 2, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

With the death of Mercury, Ford Motor Co. will funnel more dollars into Lincoln.

For example, planners are looking to add a compact, front-drive car or crossover. There also is talk that a car based on the next-generation Ford Mondeo could be added to the lineup.

For Lincoln to succeed, analysts say, it's critical that product planners separate Lincoln's design, powertrains and technology from those of the Ford brand. Lincoln will get features such as active noise cancellation and adaptive suspensions.

Here's Lincoln's outlook for the 2011-13 model years.

Compact vehicle: Ford product czar Derrick Kuzak promises a compact fwd vehicle but is vague on whether it's a compact car or crossover. Those familiar with Ford's plans say it could be a crossover based on the next-generation Kuga crossover from Europe. The automaker is also exploring a compact car. Both the car and crossover would be based on the next-generation global Ford Focus platform.

In January 2009, Ford showed the Lincoln C concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The concept, based on a wide version of the next-generation Focus platform, shows the possible styling direction for a compact Lincoln.

The redesigned Focus is due in early 2011. A Lincoln version could come by the 2013 model year or sooner.

MKZ: Like its sibling the Ford Fusion, the MKZ will be redesigned for the 2013 model year when it moves to Ford's global mid-sized platform. The styling of the next-generation MKZ and Fusion will be more differentiated.

Mid-sized sedan: A Lincoln version of the next-generation Ford Mondeo, sold in Europe, is possible. If approved, the low-volume mid-sized car probably would be slotted just under the MKS.

MKS: Ford is expected to reskin the sedan late next year or early in 2012. A restyling and re-engineering are scheduled for the 2016 model year.

The MKS will continue with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 added in the 2010 model.

Town Car: The large sedan will be discontinued at the end of 2011.

MKX: Ford is reskinning the mid-sized crossover for the 2011 model year, adding MyLincoln Touch, a touch-screen instrument panel.

The MKX is likely to get the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine in 18 to 24 months. The 2011 model comes with a 3.7-liter V-6.

A redesign is expected for the 2014 model year on Ford's global mid-sized platform. The MKX and sibling Ford Edge are expected to have dramatically different styling.

MKT: Lincoln's large, fwd crossover has three rows of seats and shares the Ford Flex's D4 platform. Its curvy design, compared to the Flex's boxy exterior, shows how product planners can differentiate Lincolns and Fords.

Expect a freshening of the MKT for the 2012 model year, with minor changes to the grille and taillights and possibly an upgraded interior.

Ford could phase out the MKT along with the Ford Flex after the 2014 model year. At that point, a source says, Ford could replace the MKT and Lincoln Navigator with a Ford Explorer-based vehicle. It would have exclusive sheet metal and more off-road capability than the MKT.

Navigator: The Navigator will get an EcoBoost engine and likely the 5.0-liter V-8 within the next few years.

Ford put on the back burner a redesign for the Navigator and Ford Expedition that had been scheduled for the 2012 model year.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100802/OEM04/308029996/1256#ixzz0vS5deV57

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Lincoln Lineup Will Grow, Smaller Models Planned

By Viknesh Vijayenthiran

Editor

August 2nd, 2010

Without the deadweight that was Mercury dragging it down, Ford’s premium division, which now only consists of Lincoln, finally has the resources and freedom to transform into the upmarket luxury brand it should have always been. This means that we’ll likely be seeing Lincoln expand into new segments and differentiate itself more substantially from the regular Ford lineup in the future.

To do this, Lincoln will likely add smaller models than we’re used to seeing, with front-wheel drive compacts and crossovers potentially making the cut. There could also be greater influence from European models, with the next-generation Kuga and Mondeo likely to make their way over in some way, shape or form.

To further differentiate Lincoln from Ford, designers will also use technologies unique to each brand. For Lincoln, this could see the use of unique powertrains, special active noise cancellation systems and adaptive suspensions.

One new model, due around 2012, is likely to be a compact car or new crossover based on the 2012 Ford Focus platform. We’ve already seen 2009’s Lincoln C Concept, which was originally billed as a vehicle for demonstrating upcoming connectivity technology and actually based on a wider version of the same global platform underpinning the new Focus.

Around 2013 the Ford Fusion mid-size sedan will get a complete redesign, which means its Lincoln MKZ sibling will as well. This time around the two cars’ styling will differ much more substantially.

According to Automotive News, a second mid-size sedan model may also be launched. This car would share its underpinnings with Europe’s next-generation Ford Mondeo and would be positioned somewhere between the MKZ and MKS.

The MKS, meanwhile, is due for a mild facelift late next year or in early 2012 in order to keep it fresh until a redesigned model arrives in 2015.

Moving up to the crossovers and SUVs, the MKX mid-size crossover is due for an update later this year and will receive the MyLincoln Touch interface system. A four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, the same unit from the 2011 Ford Explorer, will likely be added to the MKX’s powertrain lineup as well. A redesigned model will come sometime in 2013.

The MKT should receive a mid-cycle update sometime next year but after that the model could be dropped from Lincoln’s lineup altogether. The Blue Oval doesn’t have any solid plans for the MKT or its Ford Flex sibling after the current pair’s life-cycle ends around 2013. One possibility is that the MKT and the Navigator full-size SUV could be phased out and replaced with a single model based on the 2011 Ford Explorer. The current Navigator, meanwhile, is likely to receive a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 as well as a 5.0-liter V-8 to keep sales humming along until the end of its life-cycle in a couple of years.

Lastly, the Lincoln Town Car is scheduled to be discontinued at the end of next year.

link:

http://www.motorauthority.com/blog/1047845_lincoln-lineup-will-grow-smaller-models-planned

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Lincoln Promises 7 New Vehicles by 2014

By Marty Padgett

Editorial Director

September 1st, 2010

Now that Ford's shorn of Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo--and now that it's closing Mercury--Lincoln will get seven new vehicles in the next four years in a major new investment in product and in a more distinct identity for the Ford luxury brand.

At the press launch for the 2011 MKZ Hybrid and the 2011 MKX this week in Washington, D.C., Lincoln executives repeated the mantra that Lincoln is moving in the direction of smaller, less ostentation premium luxury vehicles. While the latest generation of Lincolns has been visually distinct from Ford-brand cousins, those differences are expected to multiply as its cars and crossovers are replaced or revamped over the next four years.

What will those new Lincolns be? Model by model, the future Lincoln lineup is shaping up as follows:

Town Car: The black-car stalwart likely will be dead after Ford closes its Canadian assembly factory late next year, with no clear replacement for the livery market in sight.

Navigator: The brand's big seven-passenger SUV probably will live on. A heavily revised version of the current sport-ute could bow in 2013 or 2014. Aside from styling updates, the new Navigator and Navigator L are expected to adopt new V-8 engines that arrive this year in the 2011 F-150.

MKX: New this year, the five-passenger crossover (above) is the first of the seven new vehicles scheduled. It isn't due for a major overhaul in the next four years.

MKZ: The mechanical twin to the Ford Fusion adds a Hybrid model this year. A complete redo is planned for the 2013 model year. It's to be based on a common platform with the Ford Fusion and Mondeo, but with much more differentiation.

MKT: Due for a facelift in 2013, the big seven-passenger cousin of the Ford Flex probably will add the sophisticated MyLincoln Touch infotainment system before this update. Ford's denied reports the MKT would be discontinued after its current model cycle.

MKS: New in 2009, the large Lincoln four-door sedan likely will get MyLincoln Touch system in 2012 along with a slight refresh.

Two more new or revamped cars in the product plan have been hinted at prior auto shows. They could include:

Premium small car: The logical next step in the Lincoln portfolio is a compact vehicle in the Lexus IS/Cadillac ATS class. A four-door sedan would fit in the Lincoln lineup, but the 2009 Lincoln Concept C suggests Lincoln execs are considering a hatchback body style.

Premium small crossover: With mid-size and large crossovers handled, Lincoln could also spin off a new compact crossover to compete with the Audi Q5 and Cadillac SRX. Ford's planning a new Escape based on the European Kuga crossover, and it's likely a hybrid version will be in the product plan.

link:

http://www.thecarconnection.com/marty-blog/1048932_lincoln-promises-7-new-vehicles-by-2014

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Lincoln has big plans for 7 models

End of Mercury frees up resources

BY BRENT SNAVELY

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

Despite Ford's best efforts over the past several years, Lincoln still lags its luxury competitors, but Ford executives say they know how to fix the brand.

The decision in June to discontinue Mercury allows Ford to devote more engineering and marketing resources to Lincoln.

Now, Ford has appointed veteran powertrain engineer Scott Tobin as Lincoln's top engineer and product development executive to lead Lincoln's product evolution, and he is eager to make a difference.

"Let's just say I am not on a 10-year plan," Tobin told the Free Press.

Tobin, 45, joined Ford in 1989, and worked in Mazda's powertrain division in the 1990s. He also held engineering and quality roles for Ford in Europe before returning in 2006 to the U.S. to develop cars and crossovers.

Lincoln, Tobin said, will challenge Cadillac and Lexus with better quality and technology in seven new or redesigned vehicles planned over the next four years.

"When people think of Lincoln, I want people to think of a very serene, beautiful vehicle that is very connected to the road and responsive," he said.

Lincoln evolution

From 2005 to 2009, Ford worked hard to recast Lincoln's styling and design. The company ditched the LS midsize sedan and the Lincoln Aviator midsize SUV and will end production of the Lincoln Town Car in 2011 after a 30-year run.

Since 2005, Lincoln has introduced four new models, each with a distinctive bow wave grille. But so far the design changes, even for the solid flagship MKS sedan, haven't quieted critics' common complaint that Lincolns look a lot like Fords.

Sales of the MKS, built in the same Chicago assembly plant as the Ford Taurus, are down 11.8% from a year earlier.

Lincoln ended August with 5.7% of luxury sales in the U.S. -- essentially unchanged from 2005.

Derrick Kuzak, head of Ford's global product development, said future styling, features and technology will further differentiate Lincoln from Ford.

In addition to unique exterior and interior styling, Kuzak said the new Lincolns will include exclusive features such as retractable roofs, more refined computer-controlled chassis and a higher level of touch-screen controls for navigation and climate control.

He noted that Ford has successfully differentiated smaller models with common structures such as the European Focus, Mazda 3 and Volvo S40.

Younger customers

Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president, global marketing, sales and service, said Lincoln will aim for younger customers.

Right now, Lincoln's average buyer is 61, more than a decade older than BMW's 50-year-old, according to CNW Marketing Research.

"We want to add ... a group of core luxury customers who are in their 40s and 50s," Farley said.

Farley said the gas-electric hybrid Lincoln MKZ reaching dealers in October and new touch-screen technology in the redesigned MKX crossover will help achieve that objective.

Dealer network

Major changes are also in store for Lincoln dealers preparing for life after Mercury.

Ford has 276 Lincoln Mercury dealers and 1,712 dealers with Ford, Lincoln and Mercury franchises. Ford has invited them all to Dearborn on Oct. 4 to talk about how to improve the customer experience.

"We are going to work like you have never seen Ford people work to get ... the dealership network sized right," Farley said.

link:

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100920/BUSINESS01/9200348/1210/BUSINESS01/Lincoln-has-big-plans-for-7-models&template=fullarticle

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Will these new Lincolns include a Lincoln F150, Lincoln Escape/Mariner, and Lincoln Focus? Ford trim levels don't really qualify as new models. I sort of like the look of the current Lincolns but at the end of the day it's just a Ford underneath.

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Will these new Lincolns include a Lincoln F150, Lincoln Escape/Mariner, and Lincoln Focus? Ford trim levels don't really qualify as new models. I sort of like the look of the current Lincolns but at the end of the day it's just a Ford underneath.

They already tried the F150..it was a Fail.

I can see this:

Lincoln Fiesta variant, Lincoln Focus variant, Lincoln C-Max variant, Lincoln Explorer variant...

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar

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Ford charts turnaround for Lincoln with 7 revamped models

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. must establish Lincoln as a solid luxury brand in the United States before taking it abroad, CEO Alan Mulally said Thursday.

That could take five years -- enough time for Lincoln to introduce seven new or refreshed models.

"Once we get Lincoln going in the U.S. and people appreciate it, I think there will be a lot of customer pull around the world for Lincoln," Mulally told reporters at the Paris Motor Show.

Lincoln has fallen from the top-selling luxury brand in the country, with peak sales of 231,660 in 1990, to No. 6 in 2009, with sales of 82,800, according to Autodata Corp.

Key to reviving Lincoln's appeal, and elevating its status, is reducing the number of U.S. dealers -- 1,187 today -- and demanding higher dealer standards to better compete with foreign brands.

Ford has said it won't terminate Lincoln dealers, but it is banking that many will voluntarily step aside after deciding they can't afford to make the investment that Ford will require.

"This is a pivotal time," said Bob Tasca Jr., president of Tasca Automotive Group in Cranston, R.I., and chairman of the Lincoln Mercury Dealer Council. "Opportunity comes once in a brand's lifetime."

Much of the campaign to reinvent Lincoln centers on dealers, who will meet in Dearborn next week to learn what Ford expects of them.

"Company leaders and select dealer representatives are working together to help create a new and improved luxury ownership experience for future customers," said Lincoln spokesman Christian Bokich.

Details are being kept under wraps. But since June, senior Ford managers have met four times with a Lincoln advisory committee. There is an ongoing debate about what would constitute the optimum number of Lincoln dealers, as Ford uses the year-end demise of its Mercury line as a springboard to rehabilitate the brand.

Analysis of the luxury market suggests Lincoln should be pared to about 350 outlets in major markets, to directly compete with the upscale foreign brands. But its domestic rival, General Motors Co.'s Cadillac, has 1,260 U.S. dealers.

"Over 1,000 places to buy Lincoln are too many and it isn't working," said Tasca, but 300 may not be enough to sustain the brand. "There will be a place in the middle that would work."

Tasca says Ford "won't put a gun to anyone's head. It will be up to the individual dealer to make a business decision."

There are 264 dealers who sell Lincoln and Mercury in their showrooms. Some will fold without the volume boost from Mercury, others likely will consolidate with Ford franchises.

But hundreds, especially in smaller markets, could decide the return is not worth the investment that will be asked of them.

Much of Ford's focus is on determining the optimal number of Lincoln dealers in the top 30 metropolitan markets. Half of the brand's sales are from rural dealers in cities without competition from luxury foreign brands.

Ford must align Lincoln dealers with where luxury buyers are concentrated, said analyst Rebecca Lindland of IHS Automotive in Lexington, Mass.

"They have to do significant regional studies before closing doors to avoid a backlash because people are used to a dealer around the corner," she said.

Dealers to get overview

In Dearborn Monday, dealers will get an overview of the luxury landscape, comparing Lincoln with benchmark brands such as Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. The next day, they'll hear details about the plan to make Lincoln competitive, covering everything from dealership facilities, signs and furniture to staff training.

"Lincoln must portray an upscale image to go head-to-head with the European luxury brands," said Randy Berlin, a director with dealer consultant Urban Science of Detroit.

A Lincoln franchise needs to be clearly delineated from the Ford brand, preferably with its own entrance and ambiance, Berlin said. "The worst scenario is someone who diminishes the brand for others," he said.

"You won't see a gorilla on the roof of a Lincoln dealer during a sale."

Ford has not set investment figures because there are many variables, Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas, said recently.

Sheldon Sandler, CEO of dealer financial consultants Bel Air Partners LLC in Skillman, N.J., estimated the cost of refurbishing a dealership at $500 million to $2 million. A new standalone showroom could run as high as $5 million, depending on real estate prices, he said.

"It will be up to the individual dealer to decide if they can make it without Mercury and how much they need to invest in Lincoln for the future," Tasca said.

"Some will say they can't make it."

Lou Stanford, owner of Varsity Lincoln in Novi, knows it will be tough after losing Mercury.

"It will be a struggle until we get more products," he said. "I have no intention of closing or consolidating."

The overhaul will be long and expensive, Lindland said, noting that Cadillac's rehabilitation took a decade and cost billions.

And it will take time, Berlin said: "Consumers need experience with the product and ownership before they can say 'Lincoln' and 'BMW' in the same breath."

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101001/AUTO01/10010359/1148/auto01/Ford-charts-turnaround-for-Lincoln-with-7-revamped-models#ixzz1173G4wYB

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And have rear drive.

No one will ever mention Lincoln in the same breath as BMW if their vehicles are all rebodied FWD/AWD Fords.

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