The head of the Lincoln National Dealer Council says he was never a fan of the brand's MK product names and thinks the decision to change them will help sales.
Luis Somoano, chairman of the dealer council since 2016, told Automotive News that the MK names adopted in 2006 confused customers, even about their own vehicle.
"For a normal consumer, it was very hard to identify," said Somoano, president of Doral Lincoln near Miami. "If you own a Navigator, you know you own a Navigator. But it would happen a lot in the showroom, where a customer would come back and say they've been driving a car for three years, and when you'd ask what that car was, they'd say, 'I don't know, MK-something. You know, the small one.' "
Lincoln realized the problem, and late last year committed to conventional names for all of its products going forward, starting with the Nautilus midsize crossover set to replace the MKX this summer.
In announcing the switch, Lincoln's marketing chief, Robert Parker, admitted he witnessed an awkward encounter with a couple arguing about what the name of their Lincoln was as they searched for it in an airport parking lot.
The Nautilus, the redesigned Navigator large SUV that launched last fall and the freshened MKC compact crossover that goes on sale this year are all part of Lincoln's shift from sedans to utility vehicles, mirroring consumer demand across the industry.
In 2017, Lincoln's car sales fell 2.9 percent from 2016, while its light-truck sales rose 0.9 percent.
Somoano said the brand would be smart to keep increasing its SUV and crossover offerings.
"I can't tell you how excited we are about the Navigator," Somoano said. "This is a differentiator for us. Moving forward, we need to make more vehicles like this so we can be in the conversation at all times."
Somoano may get his wish. The brand is expected to revive its Aviator nameplate this year as an Explorer-based crossover.
Ford's president of global markets, Jim Farley, "said Lincoln will be a lot about crossovers," Somoano said. "I think you have a few opportunities there."