Lincoln Updates MKZ as Marque's Sales Sputter

By Michelle Krebs November 11, 2008

Lincoln MKZ - 275.JPG By Bill Visnic

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln premium division can't seem to catch a break.

The historic brand has struggled for years to justify its continuing existence within its own family while Ford went shopping overseas for more "relevant" premium brands such as Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Jaguar and Land Rover are sold, but Volvo and home brand Lincoln continue to struggle against economic and industry currents that appear to be particularly battering to luxury brands.

According to data from Edmunds.com, the Lincoln brand is at least holding its own through a viciously downturning year for industry sales: total Lincoln sales are off 19.9 percent -- yet that number seems almost tolerable compared to the recent figures of some luxury marques.

Some of Lincoln's comparative strength is attributable to the addition of an all-new model, the flagship MKS, which through October had contributed 8,924 incremental sales to Lincoln's 2008 bottom line.

But MKS launched into one of the worst industry environments in decades, and the front-drive luxury car's actual sales performance has been meager: October saw MKS sales of just 2,072 units and 1,814 in September, as lightly trafficked showrooms across the nation have conspired against the flagship's early promise and an aggressive price point.

Now Lincoln is looking to a substantial face-lift of its volume car, the midsize MKZ, to pump up the division's numbers. The MKZ, as well as its divisional brethren, the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, get revised styling and interiors for 2010.

For the Lincoln, the most meaningful change is the grille, restyled to come in line with the new familial look launched with the MKS. The spy photos here make it difficult to determine if the appearance will work on the midsize sedan with the same effect as the MKS, where opinion about the brazen grille has been mixed.

More important to the MKZ's ongoing appeal might be its powertrain options. While Ford is offering a hybrid-electric variant of the Fusion and Milan for 2010, the MKZ will not offer that choice. Nor is it likely Ford planners saw fit for the premium-brand MKZ to be available with the upgraded 2.5-liter four-cylinder the Fusion gets for 2010 -- an option that, although gasoline prices have retreated, nonetheless is likely to be a more popular choice than the 3.5-liter V6 that is MKZ's only available powertrain, with 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway performance in front-drive variants.

Photo by Jim Dunne

Spy photographer Jim Dunne captured a disguised 2010 Lincoln MKZ, featuring the new design. 

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fulcrumb says: 6:33 PM, 11.12.08

I happened to be on I-275 in Livonia, MI Tuesday and four 2010 Fusions passed me. They had that same, cool leopard paint job. Maybe THAT'S what is needed to pull up sales.

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