Auto blogThu, 25 Apr 2013 10:58:00 EST
If you're a fan of Lincoln, get ready for "a really great story" come May 1. That's how Ford marketing boss Jim Farley, in a call with analysts, characterized the coming April sales report for the MKZ. At the moment, there are probably few things that the executive VP could want more than a happy ending for the ballyhooed sedan that has made people cry boo-hoo for the past six months.
The massive glass roof of the MKZ is trying to support a burden that would make Atlas tap out, and it hasn't shattered, but it has shown a few cracks. The car we called "a big step in the right direction," the embodiment of the reinvention of the brand and a test of Lincoln's commitment to a new rear-wheel drive offering was given an $8-million dollar Super Bowl ad spend earlier this year, then quality control issues during its assembly scuttled deliveries. Lincoln got over that and kept up the ad blitz, now it just wants the good work to take hold.
If Farley's not leading us on, April could be the month. He said the results (so far) show "the product is being very well-received," inventory is finally where it should be and the MKZ Hybrid is doing better than expected. It bears noting that Lincoln is offering some aggressive incentive programs at the moment, including 0.9-percent APR and $1,000 off for conquest buyers stepping out of competitors' vehicles.
Those of you that caught yesterday's op-ed about Lincoln will have heard already, but Mark LaNeve has taken the helm at Team Detroit. Once the North American vice president of sales, service and marketing for General Motors, LaNeve will now head up the agency that handles all of Ford advertising. LaNeve will also run the account for Lincoln. While at GM from 2001 to 2009, the exec oversaw ad campaigns like Cadillac's Breakthrough and sales initiatives like "Employee Pricing for Everyone."
He left in 2009 to join Allstate as chief marketing officer, oversaw the creation of the Mayhem ad spots and was moved into the role of VP of agency operations overseeing Allstate's 10,000 agents. He resigned from the insurer in February 2012 for personal reasons and joined Team Detroit in August 2012 as chief operating officer, in charge of satellite offices in New York and internationally. He replaces ex-CEO Cameron McNaughton, and will continue to hold the title of COO.
Lincoln is trying to get its 2013 back to rights after putting big dollar commercials for the 2013 MKZ on television then having production glitches preventing cars from getting to dealerships. With rumors of a relaunch in the works, it's no surprise LaNeve has been given the reins - and from here it looks like the brand is desperate for the kind of magic he's proved he can marshal. Perhaps he can start by calling a mulligan on the renaming exercise that gave us the hoary "Lincoln Motor Company" and go back to oh, say, "Lincoln." Then he can ask the product folks to get to work on the MKC concept...
Thu, 04 Apr 2013 11:32:00 EST
The trouble with Ford's Lincoln brand is that no one cares about it any more.
Not long after I heard that Mark LaNeve, chief operating officer of Ford agency Team Detroit, was moving to take over direct operations of the New York ad agency Hudson Rouge for Lincoln, I heard that JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson was ousted. The two events are connected.
Launching an all-new car is no easy task. Case in point is the 2013 Lincoln MKZ, introduced with the fanfare of a major nationwide marketing campaign, including expensive Super Bowl ads, just as Ford was curbing production over potential quality issues. The resulting mess was nothing short of a nightmare for any automaker - customers visiting dealerships looking for cars that hadn't been delivered yet. Disappointed buyers walked out of Lincoln retailers without new keys in their hands, or switched to a competing brand to fill empty spaces in their driveways.
The impact was painful, as Lincoln's sales in January and February of this year were among the lowest it has recorded in more than a quarter century. Even though March looked a bit brighter, with the supply crisis reportedly over (there are 3,000 units in transit and production is approaching 200 units per day) the automaker is reportedly studying the feasibility of giving its pivotal MKZ the launch it originally deserved.
According to TheDetroitBureau.com, putting the MKZ back on consumer's radar could cost Ford tens of millions of dollars, but that kind of investment may be warranted if potential buyers have forgotten about the new model... or worse, if they have forgotten about Lincoln.
New York Auto Show, Jim Farley interview, 2014 Chevrolet Silverado fuel economy, Ford fuel economy app challenge
Episode #327 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Zach Bowman and Jeff Ross talk about this year's New York Auto Show, Chevrolet's latest assault in the pickup truck fuel economy battle, and Ford's reward for developing a better fuel economy app. Dan also has an interview with Ford's Jim Farley about the future of Lincoln. We wrap with your questions and emails, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Keep reading for our Q&A module for you to scroll through and follow along, too. Thanks for listening!
Autoblog Podcast #327:
Ford is recalling certain 2012 Taurus, 2013 Explorer and 2012 Lincoln MKS models over fuel tank concerns. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicles built between July 19, 2011 and March 15, 2012 may have been built with fuel tanks that have a "marginally sealed seam" on the side. Those seams may not provide the strength necessary to protect the tank from rupture during a collision. They may also leak. The recall covers a total of 3,037 vehicles. NHTSA says that leaked fuel, in the presence of an ignition source, could easily cause a fire.
Dealers will inspect the tanks and replace them as need be free of charge. Owners can expect to be notified once the campaign begins on or around April 22, 2013. You can read the full NHTSA recall notice below for more information.
A total of 20 Ford customers are suing the automaker in a class-action lawsuit for selling vehicles "vulnerable to unintended acceleration." According to Reuters, the suit names 30 models built between 2002 and 2010 with electronic throttle control systems but without a brake override system. Those include the 2004-2012 F-Series pickups and the 2005-2009 Lincoln Town Car. Adam Levitt, a partner with the law firm of Grant & Eisenhofer says the plaintiffs in the case want "to be compensated for their economic losses by having overpaid for cars that contained defects." Levitt contends that the plaintiffs would not have bought their vehicles or paid less for them had they known there was no brake override system in place.
Ford began installing brake override systems in its vehicles beginning in 2010. In response to the lawsuit, Ford has pointed to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that indicated that unintended acceleration is mostly caused by driver error, saying in a statement that, "NHTSA's work is far more scientific and trustworthy than work done by personal injury lawyers and their paid experts."
Belville et al v. Ford Motor Co. will be heard in US District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia.
After an excessive number of recalls on the 2013 Escape and Fusion, we can't really fault Ford for being a little extra cautious with the launch of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ. Last month, we reported that dealer supply of the car was extremely limited due to more attention being paid to quality checks of cars rolling off the assembly line, which led to a 73-percent drop in MKZ sales from last year on top of a 32-year low in monthly sales for Lincoln in January.
The reason for the delay was that the sedans were being shipped from the Hermosillo, Mexico assembly plant to be inspected even closer at Ford's Flat Rock, Michigan plant before they were able to head to dealers. Things seem to be straightening out for Lincoln and the MKZ's production now, as Automotive News is reporting that supply should be up to a "normal level" by the end of this month.
As was the case with the Lincoln MKZ, it appears that Lincoln isn't wasting any time getting its newest model transformed from concept to production form. We just saw the MKC Concept earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show, and based on these spy shots, it looks like the final touches are being put in place for the 2014 Lincoln MKC crossover.
Sharing its platform with the Ford Escape, we can definitely see some similarities between these two compact crossovers when it comes to the roofline and daylight opening, but through the heavy camouflage, Lincoln's signature split-wing grille can easily be seen and it looks like the concept's taillights will also make it to reality. On the disappointing side, it looks like the integrated exhaust outlets are being ditched for some round outlets, and we can't tell if the production version will keep the Audi-like clamshell rear liftgate.
A great many buyers fled from full-size body-on-frame SUVs to car-based crossovers in large measure to save fuel. But that doesn't mean there's still not a buying audience for more traditional truck-based utility vehicles, and those consumers doubtlessly wouldn't mind saving some dollars at the pump, too. According to Motor Trend, those shoppers might be in luck.
That's because the magazine has confirmed that Ford isn't walking away from the full-size SUV segment, and it's poised to do something about its offerings' economy ratings, too. According to MT, global Lincoln director Matt VanDyke has hinted that the next Navigator may drop two cylinders and go with a V6 model - the current model gets just 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway from its 5.4-liter V8. The obvious fitment would be Ford's 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, an engine that has spread like kudzu throughout the rest of the Blue Oval's large vehicle lineup.
Downsized turbocharged engines like Ford's EcoBoost franchise have come under fire as of late for not delivering their EPA fuel economy ratings, but their benefits extend beyond consumption - the 3.5L offers superior power and a better torque curve than the naturally aspirated V8. MT also suggests that Ford's 3.7-liter V6 could form the base engine for the next Navi - it has similar horsepower but a lot less torque than the current 5.4L. That may be less of a problem with the next generation tipped to go on a diet, which could level the playing field somewhat.