Lincoln is looking to rebuild the brand and the first visible sign is a new MKZ concept, which shows the future of the brand’s most important model.
Jim Farley, head of global marketing for Lincoln’s parent Ford, says the luxury brand has an opportunity to return to give a personal connection to buyers, something he thinks the big German luxury brands BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, as well, as Japanese brand Lexus, have lost.
“What happened to the individual connections?” Farley asks. “This is where Lincoln can carve its unique space.”
The car Lincoln unveiled is a sleek, sculpted design that has far less in common with the mainstream Ford Fusion, on which the production version will be based.
Lincoln Design Director Max Wolff says the concept is elegant and dramatic, featuring a revised split wing grille with horizontal elements rather the Lincoln’s traditional vertical elements.
“These kinds of details set the Lincoln MKZ apart,” Wolff says.
The move away from vertical design cues would seem to be a good one for Lincoln since cross-town rival Cadillac has reemphasized its vertical styling elements in recent years.
Instead Lincoln is emphasizing horizontal lines, including full-width LED taillights and the basic shape of the long, sleek concept car.
One of the key details, one Wolff expects to be included on the production version, is a panoramic glass roof that spans from the windshield to the backlight and from one side rail to the other. He says it’s a feature Lincoln has toyed with for decades but the technical expertise to pull it off has only become available recently.
Wolff adds that Lincoln’s new design motif emphasizes simple rather than complex.
“The MKZ Concept’s shape is a vision of simplicity completed with just a few strokes,” Wolff says.
Farley said the rejuvenated product is part one of a three-part plan to reinvigorate the brand, which once was the dominate player in the U.S. luxury market, but lately has been known as an also-ran.
The other two elements are establishing the brand and improving the retail experience.
The brand is collaborating with WPP on a new ad agency located in New York to help tell the Lincoln story.
“We’re going to need great new ideas,” Farley says.
Lastly, Farley – a veteran of Lexus, which made its name offering an exceptional dealer experience – says Lincoln wants its dealers to up the level of service given customers. He said he wants buyers to get the same level of service they expect at boutique hotels, offering a warm personal touch.
They should get loaner cars when theirs is in for service and their cars should be washed before going back to their owners. He says Lincoln’s downsized dealer network should offer special touches such as cameras in the service bay so owners can watch their car being serviced. Lincoln will also offer a special, standalone financing arm.
“This is where Lincoln can carve its unique space,” he says.