Can the MKZ Save Lincoln?

2013 lincoln mkzIt’s no secret that Lincoln is dying.  Ford’s luxury brand has been bleeding money since the Panther platform Towncar, Lincoln’s top seller, was discontinued.  Now Lincoln is spending all of their energy just bailing water from their sinking ship.

The gravest symptoms came during the LA Auto Show a few weeks ago.  It was a little sad.  First they changed their name, rather like a pro-wrestler or MMA fighter in an attempt to reboot his career.  They are now the Lincoln Motor Company.  Can you smell what the Semi-sedimentary Rock is cooking, my good fellow?  Then they spent the whole first day showcasing nothing but classic Lincolns, the ones that were defining cool luxury during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The ones we actually want.

It turns out they were just buttering us up for their debut of the new MKZ, rather like we do when we tell a bunch of fun old stories, bringing up the best memories, just before we ask a family member for money.

Now let the reader understand that the MKZ seems like a pretty good car.  It is predictably a rebadge of Ford’s stunning new Fusion (only not nearly as hot), so it can’t be that bad.  In fact, the lines look pretty decent, and it’s available with the same 2 liter EcoBoost, so that will raise some eyebrows.

But when your brand is three steps from the grave, when you actually change your entire company name to sell more product, you can’t just build a car that’s okay in its own eyes.  You have to look at your competition.  And against the 5-series BMW, the Cadillac CTS, the Lexus IS, and the Mercedes E-Class, something like the Lincoln MKZ isn’t even an afterthought.

The MKZ is F/AWD, unlike the others, and this is, and isn’t, the problem.  It isn’t the problem for the sake of performance.  It’s almost as quick as the BMW and the CTS.  But how many luxury owners spend their weekends autocrossing anyway?  Front- or all-wheel-drive, on the other hand, is the problem because it sends the wrong message.

See, the average non-luxury commuter prefers a stable, predictable, boring and basic car.  That’s why Camrys are so popular around these parts.  But Ford’s commuter-level sedans aren’t very boring at all.  The Fusion looks like an Aston Martin, and the Taurus looks like it would break your nose if you look at it funny.  They’re both powerful, they have very clean designs, and they’re available with all the luxury you’d ever find in a modern Lincoln.

Luxury customers, however, don’t want to feel like an afterthought.  They don’t appreciate being handed an uglier version of a nice car and charged more for it.  They would rather buy something that makes them feel special, consecrated from the plebian in his middle-class Fusion.  It doesn’t seem that the MKZ can do that.

It’s incorrect to assume that the luxury owner merely wants more leather, more technology, and more comfort.  These are all standard in luxury cars today as evidence of what customers really want – status.  Rear-wheel-drive seems to say, “No, I don’t care about fuel economy, because I can always buy more gas.  If I crash in the snow, I can just call my driver to bring the Rolls around.  And unlike you unwashed urchins, I actually know how to drive.  I take this baby to the track every weekend,” even if none of this is even remotely true.

If Lincoln wants to survive, they don’t need more luxury.  They need more status.  They need a halo car, something to excite the self-proclaimed discerning connoisseur.  Rear-wheel-drive and the promise of power (which, between EcoBoost and the incredible 5.0, Ford could certainly source), could bring this, could start conversations about Lincoln again.  People could actually start comparing them to the competition.

Of course, Ford no longer has a dedicated RWD sedan platform.  Aside from the Mustang and the F-series, they don’t offer any RWD vehicles at all.  Except in Australia.  If Ford really wants to save Lincoln, they need to port the Aussie Falcon, deck it out in leather and wood, and drop it in the showroom.

Until then the ship will keep sinking.

Do you agree?  How would you save Lincoln?



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