One of the coolest debuts at the recent New York Auto Show was Lincoln’s 2013 MKZ. There I did it - I mentioned the words ‘cool’ and ‘Lincoln’ in the same sentence.
When it lands in showrooms this fall, this surprisingly svelte and sexy mid-sized sedan will finally give Lincoln a serious contender in the $35,000-$40,000 Lexus ES350/Cadillac CTS/Buick LaCrosse/Acura TL market.
Alas, the $64,000 question you have to ask is, will anyone out there really care?
That’s a pity because this new MKZ is pretty impressive. Gone is the frumpy, tofu-bland style of the current MKZ. In its place is a four-door coupe-style body that’s all swoops and curves and shimmery chrome.
And it’s loaded with some cool new features, like a giant glass roof panel that can power back over the rear window - yes it’s that big.
It’s the first car to come off the drawing board, well computer software, of Lincoln’s new super-talented design chief, Aussie-born Max Wolff. He jumped ship from Cadillac at the end of 2010 to inject some much-needed style into Ford’s luxury brand. With the MKZ I’d say ‘mission accomplished’.
Trouble is, after years of neglect while parent Ford Motor Co threw money at building-up its Euro luxury brands - Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo - Lincoln had to make do with rehashed versions of low-rent Ford models. Remember the Mark LT, that gussied-up version of the Ford F-150 pick-up? Me neither.
So Mr. Lincoln, if you’re listening out there, here are my five most-considered suggestions to help put your brand, once again, on the luxury buyer’s shopping list.
1. Get rid of the truly confusing model-naming strategy. If I have to think twice what an MKZ is, so does everyone else. Same goes for the MKS, the MKX, and the MKT. Bring back the Continental, the Zephyr and the Mark.
2. Focus on luxury, and more luxury. You may think your buyers want clever technology, like your mindbendingly complex MyLincolnTouch. But give them an Audi-like interior instead and you’ll have them signing on the dotted line.
3. If Ford is pitching Lincoln as its flagship brand, build a proper flagship to replace the Town Car. Offering a Town Car version of the giant MKT sport-ute ain’t the same.
4. Small and cool is also good. Let Max Wolff loose on Lincolnizing the new Ford Focus Electric and you could have a winner.
5. Ditch that John Slattery guy from Mad Men as your ‘spokesman’. No one aspires to gray.