Lincoln needs a second act in its ongoing brand reinvention.
The first act, the redesigned 2013 MKZ, has been the best seller in Lincoln showrooms since it arrived last winter, even though quality problems and parts shortages delayed its arrival by about four months. Now dealers are waiting for the MKC, a luxury compact crossover built on the same platform as the Ford Escape but featuring Lincoln's new spread-eagle grille and other design cues.
Lincoln has announced it will enter China next year. Chinese customers love large luxury cars with big back seats, and many Lincoln dealers hope that might eventually translate to a rear-wheel-drive Lincoln flagship -- perhaps a revival of the Continental.
For now, Lincoln is setting modest goals. Lincoln executives say they aren't trying to compete with BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Lexus as a full-line luxury player. Rather, Lincoln is taking a walk-before-you-run approach by focusing on segments in which it sees the most opportunity: mid-sized luxury sedans, with the MKZ, and luxury compact crossovers. Lincoln also sees opportunity in the small luxury sedan segment, but officials haven't confirmed the brand will offer a Focus-based Lincoln.
Despite Ford's efforts to differentiate Lincoln with design and technology features, Lincoln still relies on Ford-brand platforms. Lincoln's two biggest sellers, the MKZ and MKX, are much more important to Lincoln, in relative terms, than their Ford platform mates, the Fusion and Edge, are to the Ford lineup.
The MKZ accounts for 38 percent of Lincoln sales through July, and the MKX accounts for 30 percent. By comparison, the Fusion accounts for 13 percent and the Edge just 6 percent of total Ford-brand sales. Ford has sold nearly twice as many units of the Edge -- 79,512 through July -- as it has all Lincoln vehicles -- 45,207 through July.
Lincoln needs more ammo.
Lincoln announced last week it is launching an upscale Black Label series that will first appear on the MKZ by the end of 2014. Customers will be able to choose from three interior color combinations and exclusive paint colors.