It’s been a heady year for Lincoln, Ford Motor Co.’s luxury brand, as it celebrates 100 years under Ford ownership.
Despite being a century old, Lincoln is looking ahead, as symbolized by the L100 Concept Car as well as the Lincoln Star, a hint of what to expect from battery-electric Lincolns. Meanwhile, the company just introduced an updated version of the Lincoln Corsair, its most popular vehicle.
Clearly a brand in transition, it most recently lost its design chief, David Wodehouse, who was replaced by Kemal Curic, and the change direction is evident. But Curic’s vision has not yet reached showrooms, so the change has had no impact on sales.
Lincoln sales declined 12.3% in the first half of 2022 to 42,893 units, down from 48,924. That follows a 17.5% sales drop last year, when Lincoln sold 86,929 units, down from 105,410 units the year before. How much of that is due to supply shortages and how much is organic remains to be seen.
TheDetroitBureau.com had a chance to catch up with Joy Falotico, president of Lincoln, to discuss the Corsair and Lincoln’s path going forward. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
TheDetroitBureau.com: You’ve said you’re very excited about the new Corsair. The design update is just a bit more assertive without being too aggressive.
Joy Falotico: I agree. I think it’s modern, and it gives the vehicle more presence. The Corsair is our number one volume vehicle in both the U.S. and China, so it’s super important. What I love about it also is we that have a couple of new exterior and interior colors that really freshen it up. You know, there’s less chrome, so it’s more youthful looking. There’s a bigger screen on the inside. But one thing that I’m very excited about is to be first to the segment with Active Glide, our hands-free technology. So we’re going to keep rolling out that software so that people can have access to that technology.
TDB: And this is a really important conquest vehicle for you, isn’t it?
JF: Absolutely. When customers are ready to move up from a mass market brand and they’re looking for their first luxury vehicle and they don’t want a large size, this is where they go. We also do see it as a move-down vehicle for some people that don’t need that big vehicle anymore. So it comes both ways on this vehicle, but it is it is a big conquest vehicle for us.
TDB: What’s the take rate of the conventional powertrain compared to the Corsair Grand Touring plug-in hybrid?
JF: We have more PHEV orders than we can build. So, in 2022, 60% of the orders were PHEVs. And because of everything that’s going on with the chips, we actually had to flip some of them to gas; some of them still have the orders out there, converting them to the ’23. So that’s been disappointing, but it’s something that everybody’s dealing with. But we have really seen the demand pick up for the PHEV and it’s because of gas prices. Also, with all the EV growth, people are saying, “well let me try a plug-in hybrid, let my ease myself into this. If I’ve got range anxiety, I don’t have a plan for the charging solutions yet.” So we’re super excited about this car.
TDB: But you’ve yet to field a pure EV.
JF: Our strategy is two pronged. It’s keeping the ice line-up fresh, so you’re seeing that. But it’s also getting an EV in the market, and we’re working on that right now. And we love the fact that we are able to get some excellent feedback on our Lincoln Star concept to help build that vehicle.
TDB: Your L100 is a wild concept vehicle; but it’s a car. Do you have people asking when are you’re going to build a car again?
JF: Yes, actually, that came up when we debuted it. I’ve had people actually offered to buy it just the way it was. And we said no, not yet. Car collectors, if you will. Yeah. And I’ve had people mentioned to me about you know, the step up for to get into an SUV and the ingress/egress issues with that. This is low to the ground, and the suspension actually moves up so you can drive. What you see on the L-100 is a digital wheel that doesn’t move. The wheel is behind it. So, you know, we’ve while we while we have not talked about sedans, we are very interested in other innovative silhouettes that could be some type of a hybrid solution. Yeah. So, we like to play to our strengths.
TDB: When can we expect to see a pure electric vehicle?
JF: We’ve talked about the fact that by 2025, we expect 40% of our volume to be electric. So that means there’s something coming and it’s going to be volume. I can tell you the Star Concept has really helped inform our thinking on that.
TDB: It’s refreshing to see that the design is being informed by the past without being by it. It’s challenging being inspired by past designs. Too often, it’s taken too literally.
JF: I love the way you described that because it actually was something we were so thoughtful about. And a couple of comments I’d say about that. Number one, Bill Ford was all for celebrating our 100 years, but he wanted to make sure we’re looking forward. So that was inspiring for us. Number two is (Design Director) Kamal Curic. We said, “hey, we want to celebrate our heritage, and we want to reflect. But this is all about the future.” And that’s what this car represents.
TDB: So many times in Lincoln’s history, they released fresh designs unlike anything the brand had done before, and no one thought twice about it.
JF: We thought about that. How would Edsel Ford feel if he was here today, seeing what we’re doing?
TDB: Well, as a luxury brand it’s easy to get trapped into calcified design because they’re your best customers and they know what they like. It’s always a gamble, rolling the dice on something like this, or the Lincon Star.
JF: You’re right; this is a really different time in our history. Having this transition to EV creates a whole new opportunity to say, ‘hey, we like to reflect on our past, but we can get really excited and go in a different direction.’ And for Lincoln, we want that direction to be more progressive, more youthful, more modern, and we think that’s important to make sure of our relevance in the next 100 years.
TDB: You’ve decided to embrace your heritage. You’re just going to be Lincoln; you’re not chasing the Germans. And that really served you well, saying, “Hey, this is who we are.”
JF: You’re right. We’re sticking to that and what we saw and what we’ve seen of the other some of the other competition in the market with EVs. You know, minus Tesla, they still have a lot of ICE cues. And for us, we’re going to zig when they zag, and we’re trying to remove some of those ICE cues. We love our beautiful, Quiet Flight ICE line-up, but at the same time, we’re going a different way with our EVs because we think that’s the future.
TDB: Well, you just built a concept vehicle with longest coach doors ever built, and it has Lincoln’s classic leaping Greyhound beneath the see-through hood, and it’s longer than the longest Lincoln Town Car.
JF: It’s longer than the Navigator. Kemal not only put our coach doors again, which we obviously own that space, but we’ve got the top coming up as well. So it embraces you and it welcomes you in.
TDB: Thank you for welcoming us in Joy.
JF: Thank you