Lisle, New York, United States
It's taken four years of study, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has finally closed the books on its investigation into rollaway accusations surrounding 1.56-million Ford SUV models.
The probe, which centered on the 2002-2005 Ford Explorer, 2002-2005 Mercury Mountaineer and 2003-2005 Lincoln Aviator, ends without the federal agency calling for a recall. According to The Detroit News, the investigation was closed due to a "low number of complaints" - NHTSA documented 180 such complaints that resulted in 14 crashes and six minor injuries, but the number of incidents have been slowing. The suspected defect rate for the trucks' automatic transmissions was found to be 4.4 per 100,000 units, and the brake-shift interlock mechanism failure rate was judged to be even lower at 3.4 per 100k.
Looking to build on the momentum it struggled to establish with the MKZ, Lincoln recently unveiled the production version of its all-new MKC last month at the LA Auto Show. With a proven platform shared with the Ford Escape and striking design, the 2015 Lincoln MKC goes on sale next summer ready to take on the ever-expanding world of luxury compact crossovers. Breaking into this new segment, Lincoln has priced the MKC aggressively as one of the least-expensive offerings in its class, starting at $33,995 (*including destination charges).
At that price, the 2015 MKC costs a little bit more than a fully loaded 2014 Ford Escape Titanium and is just slightly less costly than the Acura RDX and Volvo XC60. More importantly, it's thousands less than Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLK-Class. The MKC will be offered in three trim levels for now - there is still no more information about Lincoln's new Black Label products - ranging from the base Premiere up to the range-topping Reserve.
The Premiere will come standard with features like active grille shutters, push-button start, remote start, dual-zone climate control and heated front seats, while the midgrade Select starts at $37,225 and adds upgraded 18-inch wheels, ambient lighting, daytime running lights and a steering wheel featuring Wollsdorf leather. The top-shelf Reserve trim level starts at $40,930 and brings even more luxury features including the panoramic roof, navigation, cooled front seats and wifi access.
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.