Lincoln executives admit they have only one shot at reinventing their faded brand for a new generation of luxury customers. But the MKZ, the first major vehicle of a new and better Lincoln lineup, has stumbled badly out of the blocks, angering dealers, wasting a costly advertising launch and driving away customers who have waited months for undelivered cars.
After Lincoln spent more than $7.4 million to advertise the new sedan during the Super Bowl, and more for another spot during the Grammy awards, dealers had no cars because of quality problems and parts shortages at Ford Motor Co.'s Hermosillo, Mexico, plant. Dealers didn't know what to tell customers who had put down deposits because, dealers say, they received only spotty information from the factory.
In other words, the new cloak of luxury that Lincoln had promised to create -- treating customers in a way befitting a true luxury brand -- was frayed at all the edges.
Now Lincoln is hoping the bungled launch can be salvaged by ramping up advertising next month, just as the brand sorts out the factory delays and begins shipping more cars.
"These cars were originally supposed to be here in late October," says O.C. Welch, who owns O.C. Welch Ford-Lincoln in Hardeeville, S.C. "We missed the after-Thanksgiving sale, Black Friday. We missed Christmas. We missed New Year's. We missed Presidents Day. We missed Black History month, Martin Luther King Day. We missed St. Patrick's Day. And it looks like we're going to miss Easter.
"It's almost time for 2014 Job One and we haven't seen a '13."