NEW YORK -- Lincoln plans to raise the price of its entry-level sedan when it renames it the MKZ for the 2007 model year.
That car, which debuted as the Zephyr for the 2006 model year, is being renamed this fall to align with Lincoln's new alphabetic naming scheme. The MKZ, pronounced by Lincoln as "Mark Z," also gets Ford Motor Co.'s new 3.5-liter V-6 engine, all-wheel drive and minor cosmetic tweaks.
"We haven't announced pricing yet, but there will be some slight premium with the MKZ because of what you're seeing added into the product," Michael Peyton, car marketing manager for Lincoln, said this month at the New York auto show .
Making the MKZ a slight price step above the Zephyr also will help dealerships clear out any old models still around when the new model arrives, he said.
Peyton wouldn't say how much the MKZ price will jump. Lincoln plans to announce pricing in August. The Zephyr starts at a base price of $29,660, including shipping. The premium for the MKZ probably will be less than $2,000, Peyton said.
Even with a sub-$30,000 base price, Lincoln has backed the Zephyr with significant incentives including major lease support. In March, total incentive spending for the Zephyr averaged $4,342, according to the J.D. Power and Associates Power Information Network. Industry research company Edmunds.com put the March incentive spend for Zephyr at $3,543.
Chris Lemley, president of Sentry Auto Group in Medford, Mass., says he's not worried about losing momentum with the name change. The bigger engine and awd should improve interest in the car, he said in an e-mail to Automotive News.
But Lemley questioned the logic of raising the price when incentive levels are high. "Wouldn't they be better off to see if the enhanced content enabled them to reduce the incentive spending?" he said.
Lincoln says the Zephyr has exceeded expectations since going on sale last fall. Sales for the 2006 model likely will be around 40,000, Peyton said. Through March, Lincoln had sold 12,769 Zephyrs.
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