Will Ford Sieze an Electric Opportunity for Lincoln?
It has been just over a year since what Ford calls The Lincoln Motor Company was the subject of a just-auto in-depth analysis feature. China is still nowhere near being the brand's largest market but sales there are up by a staggering 92 per cent and that's even without a local manufacturing presence. With things good in the US too, it surely won't be long before Lincoln returns to being a make selling in excess of an annual 250,000 vehicles worldwide.
Lincoln's future remains fixed on two regions only: North America and China. Its sales are rising in the USA but not as rapidly as might have been hoped. The issue is one of product rather than image, so this is very good news in that it can be fixed relatively quickly. In short, there are not enough SUVs, a problem that the brand shares with GM's would-be global luxury division, Cadillac.
A chance to out-luxury the Mercedes X-Class
There is also a segment which Ford has half-heartedly pushed Lincoln into before; namely pick-ups. GM might get there before Ford does, if its product planners see the opportunity which exists for an authentically premium pick-up. Something around the same size as the X-Class but a real Lincoln, not a modified Nissan LCV. Adding to the far from luxurious baggage, the Benz pick-up is marketed by Mercedes-Benz Vans. And, it's also available as a Renault.
If Ford is willing to take a chance on such a vehicle for Lincoln, why not an electric drive system too? How long can it be until Tesla jumps into this segment? Or, as far fetched as it might sound right now, Volvo, Infiniti, BMW, Range Rover, Jaguar and Audi? TMC and Honda each takes many years to bring pencilled-in future Lexus and Acura models to market so these two can be ruled out, at least before 2019 or 2020, as can FCA's Jeep for the same reason. Ford should by all means base this hypothetical truck on the next Ranger but give it a unique body, a properly plush yet understated interior. Also, make the EV system exclusive to the brand for a couple of years before it becomes available in Ford models.
No-one knows where the price of oil will be tomorrow let alone in two to five years' time. So, Ford, why not follow BMW's example: plan to be making Lincoln light trucks in the USA on an architecture which can take combustion engines as well as electric motors?
There are only two Lincoln cars, or three if you count the gasoline-electric version of the Em Kay Zee. Ford's monthly production reports by plant and vehicle fail to break out gasoline and hybrid versions of the MKZ sedan so the total announced earlier this month is a combined number. This stands at a respectable 23,447 for the year to the end of July, although the number for last month plunged from 5,038 in July 2016 to only 2,818 units. That will be due to a slowing at Hermosillo as the Mexican plant responds to there being far less demand for what is now a four and a half year old car, plus the general move to SUVs over sedans, and not wanting to push 2017 model year cars onto dealers who will have buyers awaiting the lightly updated 2018s.
The current 2017 MKZ is 4,925mm long so not really that much shorter than the Continental. It went on sale in North America in mid-2016, having premiered at the LA auto show in November 2016. It offers the choice of 2.0-litre turbo, hybrid or 3.0-litre turbo engines. The last of these three was new and for now, it remains exclusive to Lincoln. It produces 400hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. Lincoln calls its turbo engines GTDI. The 2017MY MKZ also had a facelift. Only the smallest changes are expected for the 2018 model year. The MKZ has been in production since December 2012.
As of now, Ford and Lincoln must be wondering whether or not to push the go button on the project to replace the MKZ. Yes, the existing car might well hit annual worldwide sales of around 35,000-40,000 units in CY2017. How about next year though? By the time the current MKZ and MKZ Hybrid are seven or eight years old in 2019 or 2020, will there be much demand for a Lincoln sedan of this size?
At one time, the next MKZ would have been the first vehicle for a bespoke Lincoln architecture called D6. While it remains unclear what Ford's position is on D6, this platform is or was being reportedly developed for front-, rear- and all-wheel drive applications and Lincoln is or was to have it exclusively for a time. Ford models on D6 would follow in due course.
By any measure, D544, which is the internal code for the Continental, has been a big success and the product planners who envisaged this car's size and positioning, as well as the interior and exterior design teams, should be congratulated. As at the end of July, 21,157 units of this 5,116mm long sedan had been manufactured at Flat Rock in CY2017. Production commenced in September 2016 for North America's 2017 model year. The car's main markets are the US, China and to a lesser extent, Canada and Mexico. All production takes place at the Michigan factory so the cars sold in China are high-priced imports.