The upcoming L.A. Auto Show could mark a critical transition point for Lincoln. Struggling to regain its position in the luxury automotive hierarchy, Ford’s upscale brand plans to use the event to unveil what it describes as a new design language for future products that will better distinguish them from down-market Ford kin.
That will begin with the redesigned Lincoln MKS and MKT models, both of which are on the docket to debut at L.A.’s Staple’s Center next week.
The new design theme, Lincoln proclaims, is more “forward-looking and more elegantly crafted” than what we’ve been seeing in recent years, with most Lincolns little more than tarted-up Ford models. But just how much further the automaker will go beyond basic body design remains to be seen.
Once locked in a battle for dominance with General Motors’ Cadillac brand, Lincoln has lost its luster, over the years, and is today little more than a struggling second-tier player despite the addition of a number of new models, in recent years.
There are a number of issues, according to industry analysts. It’s particularly problematic to have Lincoln models like the MKS looking little different from Ford offerings – in this case the big Taurus sedan – other than their chromed waterfall grilles.
That appears to be the issue Ford plans to most immediately address with the launch of the 2013 MKS and MKT, this teaser shot suggesting they’ll featured far more distinctly sculpted styling language, in keeping with trends seen elsewhere in the luxury automotive market.
What’s less certain is how far Ford will go in terms of giving Lincoln distinct architectures — In particular rear-wheel-drive platforms like those that dominate the high-line automotive segment. For now, at least, senior officials including Mark Fields, Ford’s President of the Americas, say that’s not in the works.
It may not be necessary. Platform sharing is becoming ever more common in the industry, even with high-line makers like Audi and Porsche, both of whom share their big SUV platforms with mainstream sibling Volkswagen, for example. The challenge has been to differentiate both the look and dynamic feel of those and other shared platforms, industry insiders stress.
Lincoln has been struggling to ensure that its products are more distinctive, and the outgoing MKT is reasonably differentiated from its Ford counterpart, but the next step – which we expect to see in L.A. – will be to develop a truly distinctive design form that works its way through the entire Lincoln line-up.
Former North American styling chief Peter Horbury – now the global design director for China’s Geely Group – tried to begin the process by focusing on the brand’s signature grille.
Now, it seems, Lincoln will be looking to work on the rest of the vehicle.
Lincoln isn’t the only domestic maker with big news to come out of the L.A. Auto Show. Hoping to re-start its own turnaround Cadillac will unveil one of its most important new products in years, the premium luxury XTS sedan. (For a closer look at the 2013 Cadillac XTS, Click Here.) That new model will also feature Caddy’s new Cue infotainment system. Such technology is becoming as important to luxury makers as design and performance, these days.
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