Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized Lincoln's partnership with American Express. Lincoln is teaming with American Express Publishing Corp., a subsidiary, in a rewards venture. Lincoln has no relationship with the American Express Centurion Card.
DETROIT -- As the launch of the redesigned 2013 MKZ approaches, Lincoln is taking the unusual step of letting select groups of customers test drive preproduction models.
The test drives, which started Oct. 1 and run through November when the car arrives in showrooms, are part of Lincoln's plan to reinvent itself. The struggling brand aims to offer customers the kind of personalized luxury service they would expect in boutique luxury hotels.
The events, called Exclusive Access Tours, are being conducted in nine major luxury markets: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C, Atlanta, Houston and Dallas.
"The goal is to get people behind the wheel," said Jim Peters, manager of Lincoln communications.
In addition, Lincoln is making preproduction MKZs available for dealers in other cities to show off to customers and lure them into ordering the car. So far, 62 such events are scheduled.
Lincoln began accepting advance orders in late July and is ramping up with the test drives. Lincoln will present customers who order the car in advance with rewards the company has devised with American Express Publishing Corp., a unit of American Express Corp. that publishes travel magazines, including Travel + Leisure, Black Ink and Food & Wine.
"We'll contact them with the concierge service we've developed with American Express once they take delivery," Peters said.
Lincoln might host the customers for a weekend at a boutique hotel or present them with a gift, such as custom Scotch whisky.
Lincoln has a name for this new breed of customer: cultural progressives. They're younger and more affluent than Lincoln's current customers who, at average age about 65, are among the oldest of any vehicle brand.