Let's face the facts. In spite of success of the FoMoCo mothership, sales of the sub brand Lincoln Motor Cars have been less than good. Bad. It's been bad. If it's going to be fixed something needs to change. That change is going to have to be drastic and awe inspiring. Here is how I would do it.
Back before 1940 Lincoln originally started as a rich person's luxury, being the vehicle of choice for the rich and politically connected of North America's industrial age. Part of the reason was the price tag. $4000 and above was their primary target audience in 1935 during the height of the great depression with the majority costing $4700. That might seem like chump change but when adjusted for inflation turns out to be a starting price of $67,037.94 and an average price of $78769.58 for their most popular vehicle. Mind you this is the price when everyone in America was either tightening their belts or dying from famine. And yet they survived.
They were saved in part by FoMoCo's advanced for the time manufacturing process. This allowed the vehicles, such as the V12 K-series, to be manufactured cheaper and better than their coach built rivals. And these competitors would cost thousands more and take longer to make.
Lincoln sales rose about 45 percent to produce 7,875 cars and the company was operating at a profit by the end of 1923.
Now let's look at Lincoln today. The following is data that shows the trend of the Lincoln motor company.
|Year||Lincoln BrandU.S. Sales|
In 2013 they are at almost half of their sales as compared to 2003 with a downward trend. In 2002 and 2003 the Lincoln Blackwood and Aviator came out respectively. I think that alone says enough.
So, how do we save Lincoln?
So now that we see that Lincoln is bad at competing in the market niche that is "weak-sauce luxury" along with current segment kingpin Acura let's look at another graph.
|Year||Bentley BrandU.S. Sales|
Yes, these are sales figures for ultra luxury car maker Bentley. Do you notice the trend here? The disparity between the years is less extreme percentage wise with a rise in sales in recent years. Why? Well these Bentleys cost a lot but start pretty reasonably. They do bespoke but are able to turn out cars thanks to an extensive parts bin they can grab from thanks to the Volkswagen auto group that owns them. As a result they have the same advantage that Lincoln had before 1940 in the same market segment. And this market segment just so happens to be the "wipe your butt with $100's" segment. The funny thing about this segment is that when times get tight, they almost don't notice and to have that market stability is something that every car maker would love.
So how does Lincoln get their slice?
First things first, trim the fat. Lincoln's current lineup is currently too big to make any splash in the market that it should aim for. It currently has five vehicles, 3 of which I have honestly never seen on the road. It also has plans to release two or two other vehicles that make no sense for them. Right now they should stick to their bread and butter Navigator (an expedition in disguise), MKZ (a fusion in disguise), and the MKS (a Taurus in disguise), at least until ford introduces a "Black Label" trim level for each of these cars.
In fact there should be a team whose job it is to transfer these platforms current market share back to ford. That will free up valuable engineers to engineer proper Lincolns.
This is how they do it.
Step one: Reintroduce the K- Series. This needs to make a splash. The original had a big, supercharger optional V12 with endless refinement and options. This one will be an all out exercise in quietness and luxury. Think Cadillac Sixteen with a painted all carbon-Kevlar unibody for sound deadening and bulletproofing standard, refined air suspension, and a crazy electric power train for silky smooth performance. Then go crazy with the price. Start at $600k, or whatever, but make damn sure it's worth it. Do every option Porsche al-a-cart style. Put fine leather, wood, and copper everywhere. Make it the best luxury car anywhere at nearly any price.
At the same time as Lincoln does this, sanctimoniously give the rest of the Lincoln lineup the axe and don't look back.
Step two: Reintroduce the golden age of continental. This too will make a splash as it should hearken back to the big boat Continental and start at 6 digits as well. Bring back the suicide doors, the 4 door hard top convertible, make the body out of aluminum like the f-150, give it an electric assisted twin turbocharged v8 coyote motor and, most of all, make the interior ultra comfortable. How comfortable? Make heads of state give up their S Class Mercedes for it. Again, don't rush, as this need to be done right the first time.
Step three: let these cars age with grace. Don't replace them after 2 model years with a new body design or have an extensive refresh. Update them with more options and more technologies. And while you rest the engineering efforts of these two cars never rest on your laurels and continue to test and design in an effort to have the tech trickle down to ford after you put it in the latest a greatest Lincoln.
Step four: profit!
To anyone at Lincoln or FoMoCo, if you like this idea and would like me to help implement it please contact me as I would welcome the challenge of being an automotive project manager for Lincoln.