Lincoln MKZ Keeping Ford’s Luxury Brand Afloat

Do car buyers care about Lincolns anymore? Though the answer was up for debate as little as a year ago, it appears Ford’s (NYSE:F) luxury brand is at least back on the track to good health. According to company executives and industry analysts, there will be many bumps along the road to full recovery, if that ever happens.

Lincoln has been the weak spot for Ford, and the launch of the MKZ last year was designed to turn the tide for the brand. While the MKZ set a May record of 3,300 cars sold for the month (the most since 2007), a great deal of those sales came from customers who would otherwise have purchased a Lincoln MKS. The MKZ had its best month ever in April and, with Ford expected to lead the pack for U.S. automaker sales in May, analysts are wondering if the rest of the Lincoln brand will start showing traction.

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Overall, the performance by Lincoln in May will be the same — or slightly worse — when compared to last year’s sales figures. Since the MKZ is supporting about half of Lincoln’s sales, it’s reasonable to expect more of a decline in coming months as the back orders are filled and the MKZ competes head-to-head with Cadillacs and other similar brands. Jim Farley, a Lincoln executive, admits the brand’s comeback “won’t be a straight line.”

“This is going to be a long road…remaking Lincoln,” Farley told the media. Regarding sales, he was cautious and hinted of just how much further Lincoln would need to go. “It [the sales trend] will not only need to continue but accelerate for us to continue to be competitive,” Farley added.

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Since it took GM’s (NYSE:GM) Cadillac about a decade to regain its stature following a long down period, analysts wonder if Ford will consider the investment in Lincoln (which could take longer) really worth it. All parties acknowledge it will take far more than the MKZ to get Lincoln back to relevance. To that end, Lincoln is coming out with a new version of the MKS sedan, the MKC (a compact crossover) and a reboot of the Navigator, knowing it has a lot riding on every new release.

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