As Lincoln tries to reinvent itself, Ford Motor Co.'s struggling luxury brand will target only the fastest-growing luxury segments in which it can competitively and profitably field entries, the company said.
There are "high-volume segments that are growing fast" that "we're not playing in today," Matt VanDyke, Lincoln's global head of marketing, sales and service, told an investor conference.
A slide in his presentation appeared to hint at a small premium sedan in Lincoln's future. But neither VanDyke, other Lincoln officials nor outside analysts confirmed plans for such a vehicle.
Lincoln plans to enter the fastest-growing luxury segment: compact crossovers. At the Detroit auto show in January, Lincoln showed the MKC Concept, which was based on Ford's global compact architecture, the same platform that spawned the Ford Escape.
Ford has not said when the production version of the MKC will hit the market. When it does, the MKC will join the MKZ, a mid-sized luxury sedan that Lincoln has heralded as the first vehicle in its brand reinvention.
MKZ sales have gained steam this spring after a balky launch that was dogged by quality glitches and delays.
In his presentation to investors, VanDyke showed a slide that featured the luxury segments expected to grow fastest between now and mid-decade. According to that slide, the fastest-growing segment after luxury compact crossovers is expected to be small premium cars.
Lincoln has no offerings in that segment, which includes vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz C class, BMW 3 series, Lexus ES, Infiniti G and Cadillac ATS.
Lincoln has announced no plans to enter that segment and the slide indicated no such plans. Two sources familiar with Lincoln's product cadence say Lincoln has no plans to build a compact premium sedan. If Lincoln were to decide to build a small sedan, it could base the car on the Ford Focus platform.
Lincoln dealers say they need more new products to compete with larger luxury rivals. Lincoln's sales have slid since the brand discontinued the Town Car after the 2011 model year. Refreshed versions of the MKS large sedan and the MKT full-sized crossover in the 2013 model year failed to ignite sales.
Lincoln sales declined 24 percent for the first quarter, but the decline has slowed now that more MKZs are arriving in showrooms. Lincoln sold 7,305 units in May, essentially flat from the year before. In first five months, Lincoln sales dropped 11 percent to 30,819, giving Lincoln a 0.5 percent share of the U.S. light-vehicle market. c