The first impression a car shopper gets when he or she looks at a car is often formed with just one glance at its face – if the grille is attractive, that shopper will keep looking. If the grille is ugly, the consumer will move on.
Lincoln has had mixed success with its waterfall grille, now used on most models to identify the brand. On the MKS and MKZ, the grille seems proportional. On the MKT, the waterfall grille seems larger than life, something I’ve personally compared to the creature featured in the science fiction hit, Alien. At least without the second mouth. My, what big teeth you have, MKT!
Apparently, the Ford Motor Company has heard or seen enough of the current Lincoln grille and will replace same with a more understated, but elegant face when updated MKS and MKT models are introduced next spring. Those models are in for mid-cycle changes which Automotive News reports will include improved handling and braking, and a differentiated suspension system. Different, that is, from the Ford brand from which every Lincoln model is derived.
Ugly grilles can make or break a car, something that was evident when Ford rolled out its Edsel line beginning in the late 1950s. That car’s horse collar grille was compared with a toilet seat; the entire line was canceled after three model years.
More recently, Subaru introduced its first high profile sport utility vehicle, naming it the B9 Tribeca. Its triangular grille never caught on and was widely panned by critics. Three years later an updated Tribeca was introduced with the “B9” or benign name dropped.
Lincoln’s problems can also be traced to its model naming convention. Simply put, it is confusing.
Every model, except for the big Navigator sport utility vehicle, begins with an “MK” and ends with a different third letter. There is MKZ – a midsize sedan. The MKX – a midsize crossover. The MKS – a full-size sedan. And, finally, there is the MKT – its large crossover.
The MK portion of the model name is supposed to be pronounced “Mark,” as in Mark VIII, the last of Lincoln’s distinguished models that were first produced in the 1950s as part of its Continental line. Retired in 1998, Lincoln still has a fascination with this name. Customers don’t get it. This writer doesn’t get it. Mark – S. Forget about it.
There is no telling what Lincoln’s new grille will look like or how customers will receive it. More telling is where Ford will take the Lincoln brand which has languished for years and is in danger of being ditched just as Mercury was.
Changing the face is a good start as is providing product differentiation. But, Lincoln needs some bold, new product to demonstrate to customers that it is serious about competing in the luxury market. Right now, it isn’t.