The future isn't looking good for a few models.
Last year, Ford announced the death of its core passenger cars such as the Fusion, Focus, Fiesta, and Taurus in the US, allowing the Blue Oval automaker to focus on expanding its SUV and crossover lineup with new models such as the electric Ford Mustang Mach-E. With Ford no longer selling sedans in the US, what does this mean for its luxury Lincoln division? Currently, Lincoln only sells two passenger cars: the midsize MKZ and the large Continental.
Neither model is a strong seller, with both models accounting for only 23.3 percent of Lincoln's sales so far this year, down from 27.6 percent in 2018. As a result, both models are likely to get the chop according to The Detroit Free Press. The MKZ is expected to end production in late 2020 or early 2021, while Ford's new contract with the UAW means the Continental will only be kept alive "through its product lifecycle," so don't expect it to receive any significant updates in the future.
Unsurprisingly, Lincoln is shifting its focus towards SUVS, just like Ford. "Lincoln is going where the market is," Autotrader executive analyst Michelle Krebs said. "SUVs are increasingly more popular than cars in the luxury vehicle market, just as in the non-luxury market." Luxury car buyers, on the other hand, still consider both cars and SUVs compared to mass-market buyers who tend to favor SUVs.
"About 40 percent of luxury vehicle buyers do their homework and very deliberately choose a sedan," said Eric Noble, president of Orange County consultant the Carlab. He added that most luxury car buyers already have other vehicles and don't need the versatility of an SUV. "It's impossible to become a leading luxury brand without cars," Noble said.
In reality, Lincoln is not a leading luxury brand, but the automaker's SUVs could change that if new models like the Aviator and Corsair attract new buyers to the brand. But if Lincoln wants to compete with larger luxury brands, it needs to expand its model line significantly. "The Continental and MKZ are not competitive products, but Lincoln needs volume," Noble said. "Lincoln needs at least one, maybe two dedicated luxury platforms, with dedicated component sets. You have to pull at least two vehicles from a platform to justify the investment. I'd do a large sedan and an SUV."
Potentially, the architecture underpinning the Aviator, which is shared with the Ford Explorer, could become one of Lincoln's core platforms. "Ford would be nuts not to do a modern sedan, or a liftback like the Audi A7, off that platform," said Noble. Could Lincoln build a luxury rival to the Subaru Outback and Volvo V60 and V90 wagons? "Lincoln will have to find something different in their proportions so they don't compete with its SUVs," said Brinley. "Lincoln has to do something different, but it's not clear what."