DETROIT -- Lincoln will join other luxury brands by switching to alphabetic names for its vehicles, using letters instead of words.
The alphabetic names begin this fall when a new Lincoln crossover goes on sale, a Lincoln official confirmed.
Ford Motor Co. executives have long referred to that 2007 model as the Lincoln Aviator. Now it will be called the Lincoln MKX.
A final decision to go with MKX came the week before Christmas, after Lincoln got legal clearances for the name.
Company officials called it the Aviator as recently as mid-December. In October, Lincoln even distributed a press photo of the vehicle badged as the Aviator. A truck-based Aviator SUV was discontinued in 2005.
The alphabetic names are meant to elevate Lincoln's brand image. Lincoln has struggled in the last several years as product plans stagnated and the lineup aged. Lincoln's sales for the first 11 months of 2005 plunged 12.5 percent vs. the comparable 2004 period.
"We think it's important to build the brand image, so changing to this alpha system really helps put Lincoln more in the spotlight as a brand," spokeswoman Sara Tatchio said. "It also indicates a certain level of luxury."
Lincoln market researchers found that current Lincoln buyers usually identify more with their vehicles' individual names than with the brand itself. They'll say they drive a Town Car or a Navigator, rather than a Lincoln, Tatchio said. Using alphabetic names puts the emphasis on Lincoln, she said.