LOS ANGELES -- In 2016, Lincoln will have a new face, its most powerful car ever, a revived Continental and a chance to top 100,000 U.S. sales for the first time since 2008. In China, it will add a dealership every 10 days.
What it apparently won't have, at least anytime soon, is a rear-wheel-drive sports car that many fans of the brand have been hoping for.
"We've said we need to cover the core segments first," Matt VanDyke, director of global Lincoln, told Automotive News at a private event here to show the freshened MKZ sedan. "Luxury coupes and sports cars are not the first place we need to go."
In the near term, Lincoln is more concerned with updating its look. After years of tinkering with the split-wing grille drawn from the brand's early years, Lincoln is dropping the polarizing design when the 2017 MKZ arrives next summer. In its place will be the more rectangular shape, filled with a repeating Lincoln star pattern, first seen in March on the Continental Concept.
The decision to put the new face on the MKZ, Lincoln's top-selling nameplate, even before the Continental arrives shows that Ford Motor Co. is trying to use the brand's burgeoning momentum and avoid letting another revival effort fizzle.
Lincoln is two months from achieving its first two-year streak of sales increases since 1998, when it was the country's biggest luxury brand. U.S. sales are up 7.5 percent this year, after rising 16 percent in 2014. At the same time, Lincoln says the average age of its buyers has dropped from 67 a few years ago to 58 today, much closer to the luxury market's average of 54.
"It's a very firm commitment from the company to invest in the brand," Lincoln President Kumar Galhotra said in explaining why he's confident this time will turn out better for Lincoln. Ford demonstrated its increased dedication to Lincoln in 2014, when newly minted CEO Mark Fields appointed Galhotra as the brand's first president in years and making the job report directly to him.