Lincoln has been stuck in the backwaters of the luxury market for several years as its product portfolio has aged and its dealer network has shrunk.
But the brand is showing signs of life as Ford Motor Co.'s reinvention of Lincoln gains momentum.
New Ford CEO Mark Fields, in his first major personnel move, named Ford's top engineer, Kumar Galhotra, as president of Lincoln, effective Sept. 1. Having a veteran product development engineer in the top post is good news for Lincoln, which has been starved for new products.
Another sign of bigger things to come: Lincoln is entering China late this year. Ford hopes that the world's largest auto market, with a voracious appetite for luxury, will be a lifeline for Lincoln and create product momentum.
Lincoln, which has struggled to establish a consistent design language, has another chief designer. In December, David Woodhouse quietly replaced Max Wolff, who is remaining as chief exterior designer. Lincoln watchers will be waiting to see if the brand sticks with the split-wing grille theme introduced by Wolff on the 2013 MKZ sedan. The MKX Concept, introduced in April at the Beijing auto show, has a toned-down version of the grille.
At year end, Lincoln will begin rolling out top-of-the-line Black Label trim levels for certain nameplates including the MKZ and MKC compact crossover.
Here is a look at Lincoln's future product plans.
MKZ: The redesigned mid-sized sedan arrived in 2013. The MKZ is due for a minor freshening in mid-2015 for the 2016 model year. If Lincoln follows the path charted by the MKC, as expected, the brand will replace the sliding touch controls on the MKZ's center console with knobs and buttons, at least for infotainment and climate controls. An MKZ redesign is due at the end of the decade.
MKS or full-sized sedan: A full-sized sedan is one of the hottest talking points for Lincoln, which built its once-lofty reputation on such cars. Lincoln has said it will bring a full-sized sedan to market.
Ford Motor is working on a flagship Lincoln sedan, known internally as the Continental. It has a transverse-mounted front engine and all-wheel drive. A spy photo this summer showed a large luxury sedan with a grille strongly resembling those of current Jaguars.
Lincoln promised four new vehicles in four years, so the MKS replacement -- if it is still called MKS -- should arrive late in the second quarter or early in the third of 2016 as a 2017 model.
Sources say the MKS likely will follow the Taurus and trade its aging Volvo platform for a stretched version of Ford's global CD4 front-wheel-drive platform with awd as an option.
The MKS has been criticized for its cramped rear seat; Lincoln will need a more spacious rear compartment for demanding Chinese customers.