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Lincoln Looks East – But Can China Save American Icon?

Luxury maker betting China could become its largest market.

by on Apr.23, 2014

Lincoln is betting it can gain ground in China by focusing on its dealer experience.

It once vied with rival Cadillac for dominance in the huge U.S. luxury car market, but the last two decades have been tough for Lincoln. Sales have steadily slid to the point that some anticipate parent Ford Motor Co. might eventually abandon the once-grand marque.

Lincoln has rolled out several new products over the last two years, and it plans to add at least two more by 2016, but that’s a fraction of what rival Mercedes-Benz has in store – at least one all-new or completely updated product every three months through the end of the decade.

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While Lincoln officials acknowledge they can’t keep up with that product blitz, they’re far from ready to admit defeat. But while they continue to struggle to find ways to lure more American buyers back to the brand, they’re looking East, towards China, to gain some much needed momentum.

“It’s strategically important for us to go to China,” said Matt Vandyke, Lincoln’s global director, a few days before the Ford luxury brand made its official debut at the 2014 Beijing Auto Show.

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Mulally to Retire, Fields Named New Ford CEO

New Chief Executive to face numerous challenges.

by on Apr.21, 2014

Mark Fields, who reportedly will become Ford CEO at the end of the year, shown delivering the keynote address at the NY Auto Show last week.

Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally will step down at the end of the year, according to a variety of news reports and company sources, with the maker’s current Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields to step in as his successor.

The move – which Ford declined to comment upon – is no surprise to those familiar with the automaker’s plans which were largely laid out in late 2012 when the 52-year-old Fields was appointed to the COO position, a senior company insider at the time saying the top spot was “Mark’s to lose.”

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“This is no surprise whatsoever,” said George Peterson, a former Ford analyst and now head of the consulting firm, AutoPacific, Inc. “Ford has been pretty straightforward about doing what they said they would do.”

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Lincoln Reveals New MKX Concept in Beijing

Part of major rollout plan for Chinese market.

by on Apr.20, 2014

The new Lincoln MKX Concept.

While still struggling to turn things around in the home U.S. market, Lincoln is looking to China to help revive its sagging fortunes. And this week’s Beijing Auto Show will be a critical step in the hoped-for turnaround process.

To support its formal launch in China, Ford Motor Co.’s luxury division is unveiling a new show car in Beijing, the Lincoln MKX Concept. And the prototype is but certain to reappear in production form in the near future.

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“It’s a strong indication of the next-generation MKX,” David Woodhouse, the new Lincoln Design Director, said during a background briefing prior to the show car’s unveiling. He described the show car as, “a much more emotional design” than the fairly boxy and conventional midsize crossover it will ultimately replace.

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Lincoln Breathes New Life into Aging Navigator

Full-size luxury ute gets first significant update in half a decade.

by on Jan.23, 2014

The update to the 2015 Lincoln Navigator marks the biggest makeover since 2009 to the full-size ute.

This story has been updated to note the price increase of the Lincoln Navigator’s most direct competitor, the Cadillac Escalade

It helped launch an entirely new market segment and introduced the concept of “bling” to the auto industry, but in recent years, the once-prized Lincoln Navigator has become little more than an after-thought in the luxury car market.

Now, as it sets out to rebuild its struggling Lincoln brand, parent Ford Motor Co. aims to breathe new life into the big Navigator with the most significant update to the full-size luxury sport-utility vehicle in five years.  But a sneak peek at the 2015 Navigator raises questions about whether the planned changes go far enough at a time when the big Lincoln’s most direct competitor, the Cadillac Escalade, is getting a far more extensive makeover.

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The Navigator originally debuted 17 years ago and “helped define the full-size luxury segment,” proclaimed Andrew Frick, Lincoln’s marketing manager, during a media background session on the 2015 SUV – which will be formally unveiled at the Chicago Motor Show next month. The update, he added, “will bolster” a product that had lost a significant amount of ground in recent years as it grew old and faced more competition from players as diverse as Caddy’s Escalade, the Infiniti QX80, the Mercedes-Benz GL and Lexus LX570.

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Lincoln Hopes to Undercut Competition with $34,000 MKC

Ford luxury brand makes foray into fast-growing compact CUV segment.

by on Dec.17, 2013

The 2015 Lincoln MKC is expected to become the lowest-priced model in its rapidly expanding segment.

Lincoln hopes to undercut its competition in the increasingly crowded compact luxury crossover segment – but whether a price tag starting below $34,000 will help it gain traction against offerings from makers like BMW, Acura and Audi remains to be seen.

The Lincoln MKC is the second of four all-new models the Ford Motor Co. luxury brand has announced – with still more products under development – as part of its attempted revival. It follows the debut of the MKZ luxury sedan. But the 2015 MKC provides a significant opportunity for Lincoln to position itself in what many industry observers expect to become one of the market’s fastest-growing segments over the rest of the decade.

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“As the newest entrant in small premium utility, which is the fastest-growing luxury segment, we have to offer our clients a fresh and compelling proposition,” said Matt VanDyke, director of Global Lincoln. “The Lincoln MKC offers the lowest base entry price in the segment as well as a host of first-to-segment features.”

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Lincoln Unveiling MKC Crossover in NYC

Maker gets a jump on auto show season.

by on Nov.13, 2013

Lincoln enters one of the market's fastest-growing segments with the 2015 MKC compact crossover.

Two of the year’s most important auto shows are coming up next week in Los Angeles and Tokyo – but Lincoln is getting a jump on them both with a special preview of its own in New York City later today.

There’s good reason for it to be anxious.  Ford Motor Co. is struggling to rebuild its luxury division and doesn’t want to get lost in the auto show shuffle – especially when it comes to debuting the new 2015 Lincoln MKC which will be entering one of the high-line market’s fastest-growing product segments.

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Annual sales of compact luxury crossovers have grown by 200% since 2009, according to industry figures – demand rising 25% so far this year.

The production version of the MKC may strike a note of déjà vu for showgoers who got a first look at a concept version that debuted at the Detroit Auto Show last January. The production model will be toned down a bit, particularly when it comes to the over-the-top interior of the earlier show car, but it is nonetheless an aggressive design meant to press forward with the new Lincoln look first brought to market for 2013 in the form of the redesigned MKZ sedan.

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Ford Bucking Trend – Upping Exports to China

Lincoln models, Ford crossovers, in increasing demand.

by on Oct.15, 2013

The Lincoln MKZ will be China-bound when the brand launches in the booming Asian market next year.

When Ford launches its new Lincoln dealer network in China next year, the maker plans to begin stocking those showrooms by importing vehicles from the United States, rather than building them locally.

While it will add significant duties to the price of models like the Lincoln MKZ it will give Ford a bit more flexibility – and save it the hefty capital investment that would otherwise be required to tool up a line in China, company officials tell TheDetroitBureau.com.

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But it’s not just Lincoln products. In fact, the Detroit maker is increasing the number of vehicles it ships to China even as other manufacturers – such as General Motors’ Cadillac brand – continue to reduce that flow of exports while continuing to increase local Chinese production.

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Compact Luxury Cars Could be the Next Big Thing

Mercedes, BMW, Audi and other high-line brands move mainstream.

by on Oct.02, 2013

The new 2014 CLA 250 takes Mercedes-Benz into a segment where competitors include Ford's upscale Fusion Titanium editions.

While the all-new 2014 S-Class sedan might serve as the “flagship” of the Mercedes-Benz line-up, the German luxury maker’s big news this coming year is actually its smallest offering, the new CLA.

At first glance, it’s easy to confuse the coupe-like sedan with the older Mercedes CLS model, something that was far from coincidental, company officials concede.  But there’s no confusing the numbers on the Munroney window sticker, the compact CLA starting at just $29,990 – compared with the $73,025 base price of the bigger four-door.

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With the launch of the CLA, Mercedes is going after a new generation of luxury buyers that it hopes will become long-term brand loyalists. But the German maker isn’t alone.  Virtually every manufacturer in the luxury car segment, from BMW to Volvo, is rushing to market downsized and lower-priced luxury models, whether sedan, coupe or crossover.  And that could be particularly bad news for mainstream manufacturers like Ford Motor Co. who have themselves been pushing upwards into the luxury segment.

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Spy Shots: 2015 Lincoln MKC

Luxury version of Ford Escape moves closer to production.

by on Sep.30, 2013

A prototype Lincoln MKC caught while testing. All photos courtesy Jim Dunne /CAR SPY.

In its bid to once again be taken seriously in the luxury market, Ford Motor Co. has outlined a plan to launch four critical new models by mid-decade – with a number of other offerings to follow.

The first of those, the MKZ sedan, got off to a rocky start but is finally gaining traction – just as the spotlight shifts to the next key product in the Lincoln strategy.  We got a first look at the marque’s planned compact crossover during the 2013 Detroit Auto Show. Now, TheDetroitBureau.com’s veteran spy, Jim Dunne, has captured images of the small CUV undergoing testing around Detroit.

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Due to reach market for the 2015 model-year – which means an introduction in mid-2014 – the Lincoln MKC will be based upon the same basic platform as the latest-generation Ford Escape.  And, as you might recall, Escape migrated from a traditional body-on-frame to a crossover platform when it was relaunched for the 2013 model-year.

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Ford Recalls 370,000 Older, Rear-Drive Models

Corrosion problem could cause loss of steering.

by on Sep.03, 2013

The Lincoln Town Car is one of three Ford models impacted by the new recall.

Ford is recalling 370,000 of its older, rear-drive models to correct a corrosion problem that could result in a loss of steering control.

The recall impacts the 2005 to 2011 Ford Crown Victory, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car models, all of which share the same full-size, rear-drive platforms. About 355,000 of them were sold in the U.S., another 15,000 in Canada.

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The recall is focused on 22 Midwest, South-Central and Eastern Seaboard states, as well as the District of Columbia, where the use of salt can increase the risk of corrosion.  But owners living in other states also can ask for an inspection and, if necessary, repairs.

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