SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Don't write off the lowly Lincoln MKT just yet.
Although the luxury brand plans to introduce the MKT's successor -- the Aviator -- in 2019, Lincoln has not set a date to end production of the 9-year-old large crossover.
A favorite of livery services, the MKT will stick around for the foreseeable future for fleet buyers to use as hotel cabs or funeral hearses, Robert Parker, Lincoln's marketing manager, told Automotive News. The brand is focusing its major nameplates, such as the Navigator SUV and Aviator, on more profitable retail sales and doesn't want to discount the new models on rental lots.
"MKT can fill that role profitably for the company and will for the time being," Parker said in an interview during a media event here. "We don't think it negatively impacts the brand."
The MKT is almost an afterthought; it's the brand's lowest-volume nameplate by far and already has been replaced by the Aviator under the "Vehicles" tab on Lincoln's media website. It's the last vehicle in the lineup to wear the old split-wing grille design and is not likely to be updated.
The company has sold 1,653 MKTs in the U.S. through August, down 22 percent from the same period a year ago. But with the tooling long paid for, brand executives are fine with continuing to sell the crossover to commercial fleet businesses.
"It has a place," Parker said. "Just like a long snapper on a football team. Nobody knows their name, or cares, but if he screws up a snap, it's a bad day."