The LS, according to early sales, is fulfilling its mission of attracting newcomers to Lincoln.
Forty percent of sales in the past month were to buyers who had never visited a Lincoln showroom, said Jim Rogers, vice president of marketing at Lincoln Mercury.
Lincoln sold 4,198 of the new cars in June, its first full month in showrooms. Rogers estimated LS sales volume could reach as high as 65,000 annually. He projected Lincoln's total sales would reach roughly 180,000 units this year. Lincoln sold 143,262 vehicles last year.
A TIGHT RACE
First-half 1999 sales show a tight race in the luxury category. During the period, Lincoln sold 19,146 vehicles; Cadillac, 18,193; Mercedes-Benz, 16,417; and Lexus, 15,041.
'I can't overemphasize the importance of LS to the Lincoln brand,' Rogers said. Lincoln is attempting to redefine itself to appeal to younger buyers, an effort that started with the Navigator sport-utility in 1997.
The brand has gathered 95,000 prospects from a Web effort, a direct mailing and from name-gathering at auto shows. Lincoln is starting to call those prospects to schedule test drives at dealerships.
After the long pre-launch activity, Lincoln finally launched the first TV commercial over the weekend during the British Open Golf Tournament on ABC.
The ads from Y&R Advertising, in Irvine and San Francisco, Calif., attempt to surprise consumers with thought-provoking creative work but do not attempt to distance the LS from its Lincoln heritage, said Mark Turner, senior vice president on the brand's team at the ad agency.
The campaign is the first to use Lincoln's new tag line, 'Lincoln. American luxury,' which will be added to all vehicles this fall. Actor Dylan McDermott of ABC's 'The Practice' narrates the two TV commercials.
Lincoln has expanded its media buy to aim at buyers as young as 30. The new media, Turner said, include GQ and Vogue magazines and cable channels Bravo, Speedvision, ESPN2 and Comedy Central. The cable buy is extensive because that is where the target market is.
Lincoln is aiming at college graduates who are ambitious and successful with annual household income of $75,000 and up.
Network buys are more oriented to special events, including the Tour de France bicycle race and the U.S. Open tennis tournament. However, in fall, Lincoln will add some prime-time network TV to the mix.
The LS is expected to get an estimated $45 million worth of advertising in measured media this year. The car's event spending is higher than that of the Navigator, although Lincoln declined to disclose either vehicle's event budget.