Auto blogMon, 30 Jun 2014 17:29:00 EST
Lincoln fans might want to give incoming Ford CEO Mark Fields a pat on the back for having a hand in saving the brand from the chopping block last year. He's among the people spearheading the rejuvenation of the division away from its stodgy image to appeal to younger customers.
According to two unnamed sources speaking to Bloomberg, CEO Alan Mulally was ready to kill Lincoln last year. Following the slow production ramp-up of the MKZ combined a with a costly ad campaign, Mulally was frustrated and openly suggested dropping the brand. However, Fields and Jim Farley, Ford's marketing boss, convinced the CEO that the brand was worth saving. They also created a plan to prevent similar problems for new models in the future.
It seems that one part of the strategy may involve waiting until new models are at dealers before starting a big ad campaign for them. Lincoln global director, Matt VanDyke, recently told Autoblog that the division is holding off on a full marketing push behind the new MKC crossover to prevent the supply problems that plagued the MKZ last year. Its big offensive begins in the fall when the CUVs are at all of the dealers and consumers are at home watching more TV. VanDyke also told Bloomberg that Fields, Farley and Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas, have more direct oversight over new product launches now.
Earlier this month in our first drive of the 2015 MKC, we told you that Lincoln finally had a new vehicle in its arsenal worth crowing about. So with the compact premium crossover now finding its way into dealers, why aren't you seeing its likeness plastered on billboards and barraging you on television? It's because Lincoln is "holding some powder."
Those are the words of Lincoln's global director, Matt VanDyke, who tells Autoblog that the company is holstering some of its marketing guns because it's keen to avoid repeating the ill-timed efforts that blighted its last rollout, the MKZ. That vehicle's launch early last year was beset by various delays related to manufacturing and quality. The cadence issue was so dire that by the time the model reached showrooms in volume, Lincoln had already blown most of its budget on things like Super Bowl ads that ran weeks or even months before customers could check one out in person. It was a particularly trying series of events for parent Ford because the MKZ and its oversized marketing spend were charged with relaunching the Lincoln brand to the public.
Keen to avoid repeating the same timing issue and mindful of consumers' habits at this time of year, Lincoln is taking a different strategy with the MKC. According to VanDyke, "What we don't want to do is try and fight the summertime - people using television being down, and other mass media when school's out. New television shows aren't on." Of course, that doesn't mean Lincoln is sitting idle. VanDyke says, "By no means are we quiet during the next 90 days. This year, we're going to really spend the next 60 to 90 days using digital and social media, in-theater advertising and the like, and once we have full availability at dealerships, we'll really ramp up the advertising later on in the summer." Part of that early media effort includes immersive digital marketing like Lincoln's clever Dream Rides web experience.
In recent years, there have been a lot of dire pronouncements made about Lincoln's future, or a lack thereof. But Ford's premium marque is like the Rocky Balboa of the auto business; every time the company seems ready to go, it comes back for more. Apparently, that dogged persistence is paying off, because the industry analysts at AutoPacific have put a big check in their win column with their newly released 2014 model year vehicle satisfaction survey. And despite recent enmity for its seemingly never-ending recall saga, it appears General Motors knows how to satisfy new owners, too.
In fact, not only was Lincoln named as the premium brand with the highest new owner satisfaction, even scored three models on the list of passenger cars with the most gratified buyers - the MKS, MKZ and MKZ Hybrid.
GM's stable of brands was also among the top companies in this year's survey. GMC was named the top popular brand by AutoPacific, with its Sierra pickup and Acadia crossover singled out for awards in their segments. Chevrolet also did incredibly well, with more cars on the list than any other brand. The Corvette, Camaro, Sonic and Impala all made the cut in their respective categories.
Back in 2012, Lincoln claimed its comeback bid was finally underway with the new-for-2013 MKZ. But don't you believe them - the renaissance won't actually begin in earnest until the shapely compact crossover seen here reaches showrooms in big numbers. That's because while the four-door MKZ was indeed a proper step toward rebirth, the 2015 MKC is the first wholly conceived vehicle under Lincoln as a standalone brand, a move first announced back in 2012.
That's an important distinction, because Lincoln's newfound emancipation from Ford's design and development processes has given the struggling marque both the corporate wherewithal and the will to develop a more fully formed product. The four-wheeled result seen here is a surprisingly cohesive luxury CUV, one with significantly more aesthetic and dynamic separation from its Ford Escape sibling than the MKZ and its Fusion counterpart. Said another way, after flogging Lincoln's latest for hundreds of miles over canyon roads outside of Santa Barbara, we've come to understand that this is far from a re-grilled Dearborn special with luxury tinsel - it's a bona fide standalone product that readily displays the sort of clear differentiation seen in platform cousins like the Audi Q5 and the Volkswagen Tiguan. It's the real deal.
As the first 2015 MKC crossovers slip into dealerships, Lincoln has confirmed power and fuel economy ratings for the compact crossover's optional 2.3-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder engine.
The new range-topping powerplant, thus far otherwise unavailable in the Blue Oval kingdom, will net a healthy 285 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 305 pound-feet of torque from 2,750 revs. Those figures represent gains of 10 hp and 5 lb-ft over earlier estimates, putting the handsome new compact CUV in the hunt with up-engined rivals from Audi and BMW. (A variant of the 2.3L will shortly find its way into the engine bay of the 2015 Ford Mustang, albeit with a number of key changes, including north-south orientation.)
In the MKC, the new engine will net 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway with standard all-wheel drive, meaning it only loses a single mile per gallon in the city cycle versus the 240-hp, 270-lb-ft 2.0L EcoBoost model when fitted with all-wheel drive. Both engines rely on the same six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission.
Ford is taking a bit of the spotlight away from General Motors, announcing a major group of recall campaigns, covering a total of 1.4 million vehicles built between 2006 and 2013.
Let's start with the big one, which covers the Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner and, according to The Detroit News, Ford-built Mazda Tribute CUVs. 915,216 vehicles are covered, all of which were built in model years 2008 to 2011. 736,000 vehicles are in the US, while Canada then Mexico make up the vast majority of the remainder. The problem is due to an issue with the torque sensor in the steering column, which could lead to sudden power steering failure. Manual steering would still be available, though.
"Dealers will perform one of three service fixes, depending upon what diagnostic codes are shown when the vehicle is taken to the dealer," Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker wrote to Autoblog in an email. "They will either update software for the power steering control module and the instrument cluster module; replace the torque sensor; or replace the steering column, which includes upgraded power steering control module software."
Fancy picking up a refreshed Lincoln Navigator? Well, prepare to shell out at least $62,475. That's a whopping increase of $6,310 for the now-EcoBoost-equipped SUV.
That's just for the two-wheel-drive Select model, though. Want to drive all four wheels? Better have an extra $3,575 laying around. Snagging the top-of-the-line Reserve model, meanwhile, demands a premium of $7,500.
For those extra bills, you'll net Lincoln Drive Control, complete with continuously controlled dampers, power running boards, Ziricote wood interior trim, upgraded leather, 22-inch wheels, a "unique" interior headliner and, of course, a "Reserve" badge.
We've now seen the Lincoln MKX Concept in the metal, and we've shot it with the lenses of our own DSLR cameras. And we have to say, our opinion of the concept's design language has improved over our initial reaction. Yes, it's clear that this MKX shares its underpinnings with those of the Ford Edge Concept that we saw in LA, but the changes made by Lincoln stylists are a welcome departure from the angular lines of its corporate cousin from The Blue Oval.
We like the subtlety of the MKX Concept's front fascia, and the lighting elements both front and rear lend a luxurious quality to the crossover's typical two-box proportions. When combined with the smaller MKC that was shown in production form late last year, it's clear to see that Lincoln has a specific design direction that at least seems visually capable of setting it apart from the Ford models with which the brand shares its platforms. Here's hoping there are some Lincoln-specific upgrades underhood...
Have a look at our image gallery of live photos from Beijing above, reread the press release below, and feel free to let us know what you think.
Lincoln has finally dropped the details on the MKX Concept after a few days of teasing. Set for a very important global debut at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show, we're going to have to see this conceptualized version of the third-generation MKX in person before we can draw any real conclusions on the effectiveness of its design.
One of the things Lincoln will need to do to succeed is deliver something to customers that's unique to the brand's vehicles, which are exclusively rebadged models from parent company Ford. We're not sure this is going to be distinctive enough.
Unlike its last new vehicle, the Navigator, the work done on the MKX is smooth and refined. The stance of the vehicle, with its 21-inch wheels, is aggressive enough. Viewed from the profile, the overhangs appear rather short, while character lines keep it from looking slabsided. In front, we might be witnessing the cleanest interpretation yet of Lincoln's twin grilles. The headlights are slim and stylish, and we're digging the shape and style of the mirrors, which feature integrated turn signals that outline the mirror cap.
If the teaser video for Lincoln's launch of a new concept at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show wasn't enough for you, the company has now released a shadowy new image on its Twitter page. The vehicle may be a concept for the next-generation MKX, and its launch in China is part of the huge rollout to sell the brand's models there.
The latest photo shows off the concept's lighting, including LED running lights and lit sideview mirrors. The sharp edges of the lights give some hints to its shape. However, Other than clearly being a crossover, not much else is known.
The concept's launch supports Lincoln breaking into the Chinese market. It will begin selling the MKZ and MKC there this fall, as well as a midsize luxury SUV. A fullsize luxury sedan and the Navigator will come later. The company will also build luxury showrooms for the models that will look more like high-end hotel lobbies than car dealers. Scroll down to watch the teaser video.