Auto blogTue, 07 Oct 2014 15:44:00 EST
The two big American luxury brands of Cadillac and Lincoln are on surprisingly similar paths at the moment with both divisions hoping to redefine themselves and grow popularity. They're still early in the process with no clear winner yet, but things might actually be looking up for Lincoln's latest model, according to a monthly sales analysis from The Motley Fool. It seems, at least early on, that the new MKC crossover might be taking a bite out of the Cadillac SRX's growth.
The MKC launched just a few months ago and has been getting a big marketing push from a series of oft-mocked ads starring the smooth-talking Matthew McConaughey. The luxury CUV has been the popular, new kid on the block with growing sales since its introduction. While smaller than the SRX, the Lincoln starts at a lower price and offers better fuel economy.
Through June, the SRX performed well with sales up over 20 percent on average through June, according to The Motley Fool. However, July and August saw things plummet with year-over-year drops of 7 percent and 37 percent, respectively. It still far outsold the MKC in terms of actual units in a given month, but the Caddy's continued growth has appeared to stagnate.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is opening an investigation into the 2010-2012 Ford Fusion, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ, the 2012 MKZ Hybrid and 2011 Mercury Milan because the agency has hundreds of complaints of electric power steering failure in these models.
According to NHTSA's data, it has received 508 complaints of the power steering allegedly suddenly malfunctioning and resulting in increased effort to turn the wheel. In four incidents, these failures resulted in loss of control and crashes. According to the reports, in some cases a power steering warning message came on as the fault occurred, and other times the system restored itself by turning off and then restarting the vehicle. NHTSA said it has also received further field report data from Ford, but that information hasn't been publicly released yet.
For the moment, there isn't a recall for this failure on these models. NHTSA is just investigating them to "assess the scope, frequency and safety consequences of the alleged defect," and the agency says an estimated 938,000 vehicles could potentially be affected.
Lincoln had to have known that when it released its new ad campaign for the new MKC with Matthew McConaughey, it would open itself up to a bit of good old fashioned ridicule. The television commercial was, after all, good for a laugh or two. And true to their mission, talk show hosts haven't missed the opportunity to have a little fun at Lincoln's and McConaughey's expense.
Conan O'Brien was first to send up the television spot, but now Ellen DeGeneres has taken a stab at it too, superimposing herself in the back seat of the compact luxury crossover, downing some pot brownies and generally playing Costello to McConaughey's Abbott. It's worth a watch, if only to see Ellen getting down in her usual, offbeat style.
Ford has announced a major recall of 850,000 vehicles from model years 2013 and 2014 due to a problem with the "restraints control module."
According to Ford, a short circuit could develop in the module, causing the airbag warning light to illuminate. In more severe cases, dependent on where the short develops, the airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners may not work in the event of an accident. The problems can be more wide-ranging than that, too, as systems that rely on information from the control module, such as the stability control can be affected.
With 850,000 vehicles affected, it's no surprise that some of Ford's volume leaders are covered. That includes the Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans, as well as the incredibly recall-prone Escape and the C-Max MPV.
It seems like the retro design aesthetic in autos might be petering out, with even a former poster child like the Ford Mustang taking a step in a more modern direction. Sometimes those updates of old-school models really worked well, though. Just take a look above at the Lincoln Continental concept from 2002 that took the extruded shape of the 1960s version and updated it for the new millennium.
Now there's a chance for this gorgeous concept to take a spot in your garage, as RM Auctions is selling it as part of a 130-plus-car, no-reserve auction of the Sam Pack Collection on November 14 and 15, in Dallas, TX. Among the lots for sale are a number of Fords, including several recent concepts from the brand. "My collecting philosophy is simple: buy what I like, but always with an emphasis on quality," Pack said in the auction announcement.
The Continental concept absolutely nails the mix of modern and retro. Its perfectly crisp lines make the shape appear hewn from a single piece of metal, and there's just the slightest ornamentation with the angled, chrome slats in the grille and chrome strips over the wheel arches. It even retains the suicide doors from its inspiration.
It has been two years since Lincoln first announced its plans to expand into China, and the first models destined for sale in the giant automotive market just came off the boat in Shanghai on September 10. It's going to be a few weeks before Chinese buyers actually have the chance to get behind the wheel, though.
The first two models being offered to China are the MKZ and MKC, as seen arriving in these photos, and they are going to be sold at dealers that look more like hotels than traditional showrooms. The first four are opening in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou in October, with a grand unveiling of the new brand to Chinese consumers later that month. By the end of the year, Lincoln wants to have eight dealers operating in seven cities. By 2016, the automaker wants to have a lineup of five models available in the People's Republic.
"This is the culmination of months of teamwork and collaboration both in North America and here in China," said Robert Parker, President of Lincoln China, in the company's release.
Typically, when I approach a new vehicle launch, it's with a degree of optimism. Nowadays, we just expect that every new vehicle will pose a legitimate challenge to segment leaders. Mid-cycle refreshes, meanwhile, have taken on a greater degree of importance, as customers' preferences for the freshest vehicles remains strong and automakers rush to keep the latest tech in their offerings.
Conversely, I admit to not being terribly optimistic hopping into the 2015 Lincoln Navigator. I was the first person from Autoblog to see the new model in the metal, way back in January ahead of its Chicago Auto Show debut, and my initial reaction was far from positive. But, as I'd been the one that initially tested the new Cadillac Escalade and had just finished a week in the long-wheelbase version of General Motors' most premium SUV, I was a natural candidate to head down to Louisville, KY - home of Navigator production - to sample the brand's latest.
Lincoln's attempt at freshening the old Navigator's bling-bling face is pretty typical of today's more thorough mid-cycle refreshes, with dramatically new front and rear clips. The addition of standard 20-inch wheels or optional 22s - in place of standard 18s and optional 20s - goes a long way towards modernizing the Navigator's staid exterior. The cabin, meanwhile, is home to finer leather, which covers most of the dash as well as the steering wheel and seats. Warm Ziricote wood would prove to be a particular highlight on the top-flight Reserve model that I drove (the only trim available for us to test).
We all had to see this coming. Conan O'Brien has released a parody of Matthew McConaughey's new ads for the 2015 Lincoln MKC and remixed them with lines from one of his most critically acclaimed recent roles.
The now much darker commercial probably isn't how Lincoln would prefer the MKC to be marketed, but really in a few of the actual ads, McConaughey already seems moments away from breaking into a full Rustin Cohle from True Detective impression. The cadence and tone of his voice are just so close to that character, especially in the one where he's talking to the bull standing in the middle of the road. It very nearly verges on parody anyway; Conan is just turning all of this up to 11.
It's a little surprising that the writers didn't dig a little deeper into the McConaughey oeuvre for the parody. Maybe McConaughey could have taken the MKC for a party at the Moon Tower from Dazed and Confused. In any case, it's worth a quick watch, so check it out.
Lincoln is making the decisive commitment that it wants to improve its brand perception going forward. It can't be cheap to hire A-list talent like Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey and director Nicolas Winding Refn, best known for Drive, for its new ad campaign for the 2015 MKC crossover, but the company is showing that it's serious about the new vehicle and its future. The first three of these five commercials are just hitting YouTube, and they begin airing on television on September 6.
The Live in Your Moment campaign is all about Lincoln trying to sell not just the MKC to customers but also explain the brand's philosophy. It's one of the oldest luxury automakers around, but hasn't exactly had a glorious history, especially recently. Based on these first ads, we can see that there's a definite focus on philosophizing rather than focusing on the crossover. At times, McConaughey seems just a mustache and a mangled beer can away from reprising his role from True Detective.
The first ad (above) is simply titled Intro and sets the mood and concept for the whole campaign. Bull has McConaughey talking to a longhorn in the middle of a road, and I Just Like It has him explaining his affinity for the brand. Lincoln's full release is available below, and you can view the other ads by flipping through the playlist in the video player above.
Ford hybrid customers apparently have very short memories. With two EPA fuel economy reratings in the last year, sales of the C-Max, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ haven't been too terribly dented, Ward's Auto reports.
All three vehicles saw sales dips following the August 2013 rerating, although sales of the MKZ Hybrid had begun to rebound as early as November of that year. C-Max sales, meanwhile, took slightly longer, with sales on a steadily improving course as early as February of this year.
The second rerating, in June of this year, has had an even smaller effect on the Blue Oval's hybrids. The C-Max has actually been subject to a sales increase, while both the MKZ and Fusion saw minor sales drops (less than 400 units between the two in the month following the rerating).