A new flagship sedan for Lincoln is the top product-development priority for Lincoln Mercury. The large sedan takes precedence over a new coupe or convertible for Lincoln or Mercury, division President Darryl Hazel said after the make meeting.
That vehicle "is an issue for us, and we're working on it," he said.
Hazel said it hasn't been determined exactly where the new sedan would fit into the Lincoln lineup.
Company officials have acknowledged that Lincoln is studying two existing platforms to carry the flagship car. One is the aging rear-drive Panther platform that underpins the Town Car, Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria. The other is the platform that supports the Ford Five Hundred sedan, which debuts in the fourth quarter of this year.
The flagship would be all-wheel drive and likely wouldn't arrive on the market until 2007 or later.
Phil Martens, North American product-development chief at Ford Motor Co., said in January that the company would decide on the flagship by the end of March. But Lincoln officials said Sunday that approval of the flagship probably will take longer than that.
Lincoln Mercury still has interest in the two-door market. Lincoln showed the Mark X convertible concept, a reskinned Ford Thunderbird, at the Detroit auto show in January. Hazel also has said he would like a two-door vehicle in the Mercury lineup.
Developing a replacement for the Lincoln Premier Experience dealer-certification program is another priority for Lincoln and its dealers. The current program will run through March 2005; it's on the same termination schedule for the Blue Oval and Mercury Advantage certification programs.
Details about the Lincoln Premier Experience replacement will be revealed to dealers this summer, Hazel said. The Mercury Advantage replacement will mirror the Blue Oval replacement, and those programs also are expected to be revealed to dealers in the summer.
When Lincoln begins distributing the Mark LT pickup about a year from now, allocation will be weighted toward Texas and other popular truck regions. Hazel said that every Lincoln dealer will get one Mark LT before any dealer gets two. But after that initial distribution, expect to see more of the trucks in Texas. Distribution will spread across the country from there.