Lincoln is giving MKZ customers what they want: a hybrid.
Sales of the 2011 MKZ, Lincoln's first hybrid, begin this fall. The car made its debut today at the New York auto show.
Research shows "about 40 percent of MKZ customers would seriously consider a hybrid," says Jonathan Richards, MKZ/hybrid marketing manager.
And about 50 percent of shoppers looking for cars comparable to the MKZ in size and price are interested in a hybrid, he said in a phone interview.
"So we think this is an opportunity for conquest for Lincoln, and most importantly, to broaden the appeal of Lincoln beyond its current owner base," said Richards.
Lincoln is aiming the MKZ at shoppers of the Lexus HS 250h. That hybrid sedan carries a $35,525 sticker, including destination. MKZ prices will be announced later in the year.
Richards said the MKZ hybrid will come with features that are standard or optional on the Lexus model, such as a 10-way power passenger seat; memory seat settings; heated and cooled front seats; and a reverse sensing system that alerts the driver if an object is near when the car is rolling in reverse.
Lexus sold 6,699 HS 250h units in 2009, an abbreviated sales year that started in August. Richards would not reveal the MKZ sales target.
Overall, 10 percent of all U.S. Lexus vehicles sold in 2009 were hybrid models.
Richards said the Lincoln will get “at least 6 mpg better in the city.” The Lexus model is rated at 35 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
47 mph on pure electric
The 2011 MKZ hybrid uses Ford's second-generation hybrid technology teamed with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The car can run in pure electric mode up to 47 mph. The technology also is used by the 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids.
While the Ford and Mercury vehicles get 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, the city rating for the 2011 MKZ may be higher.
"We can be hopeful, but until we have the official EPA certification, we will say at least 41," he said.
Last year Lincoln sold 22,081 MKZs in the United States, down 27 percent from the previous year. Sales for January-February this year totaled 3,101, off 15 percent.
Richards said there is an added benefit to having a hybrid in the showroom.
"Our experience with hybrids is that they provide a draw and a halo for the showroom and the brand," he said. "It drives showroom traffic. It drives potential sales of the other vehicles."