RICK KRANZ

Lincoln's deep hole

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

With demand for many luxury vehicles outpacing the market's overall growth this year, Ford Motor Co. is racing to reinvent Lincoln.

Seven new or revamped vehicles will debut in the next three years. The redesigned MKZ goes on sale in mid to late 2012, for example.

But how bad are sales now? Through the end of May, just 34,642 Lincoln vehicles were sold -- a drop of 8 percent from a year ago in a market that is up 14 percent.

Those sales include the MKZ, MKS, Town Car, MKT, MKX and Navigator. Delete the venerable Town Car, which will be retired in mid-September, and Lincoln sales drop to 29,826 for the five-month period.

Only Lexus -- stymied by inventory shortages as a result of the March earthquake in Japan -- is faring worse among luxury brands, with U.S. sales off 14 percent to 77,237 units.

You can understand why some Lincoln dealers don't want to invest $1 million in a new facility, despite Ford's threat to cancel their franchise.

Here's another way to look at Lincoln sales: Two other luxury brands each have one model that is outselling the entire Lincoln line this year.

BMW sold 34,707 3-series units and Lexus sold 34,697 RX crossovers in the first five months.

Mercedes-Benz leads all luxury brands with sales up 9 percent this year to 95,458.

And Cadillac's sales this year through May -- 65,262 -- are nearly double Lincoln's.

Lincoln's situation is so bad that General Motors CEO Dan Akerson engaged in rare public trash talk about his crosstown rival.

"They are trying like hell to resurrect Lincoln. Well, I might as well tell you, you might as well sprinkle holy water. It's over," Akerson said in a recent interview with The Detroit News.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally turned his company around without a government bailout -- let's see if he can do the same for Lincoln. He's got his work cut out for him on this one.

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