LOS ANGELES — Lincoln Motor Co. is upping its commitment to the popular large premium crossover segment with a three-row Aviator that executives believe could become the brand's highest volume U.S. nameplate.
After years of the lowly MKT atrophying at the bottom of sales charts, Lincoln next summer will start selling an Aviator that was engineered on a new rear-wheel-drive platform and will come in gasoline and plug-in hybrid versions. The electrified model, called the Aviator Grand Touring, combines an electric motor with a 3-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine to deliver the brawniest powertrain the luxury brand has ever offered at 450 hp and 600 pound-feet of torque.
Lincoln President Joy Falotico told Automotive News she "absolutely believes" the Aviator could supplant the Nautilus as the top-selling U.S. nameplate.
"Aviator is aptly named, because Lincoln is at a takeoff point," Falotico said ahead of the vehicle's debut Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show. "Our momentum is strong."
The vehicle's introduction comes after the brand has updated and redesigned most of its vehicles, including the lucrative Navigator SUV as well as its MKC and Nautilus crossovers. U.S. sales are down 9.6 percent in 2018, but Lincoln has posted worldwide volume gains for four consecutive years and is on pace to hit its goal of 300,000 annual sales by the end of the decade.
"We're looking to build a luxury brand for the long term, in a healthy way," Falotico said. "Our inventory is down and our transaction prices are up. We're dialing back on our rental and fleet volumes, and we're leaning into our strengths."