Lincoln Bucks Conventional Wisdom With Future Flagship Plans

Just the Facts:
  • Lincoln's upcoming flagship vehicle may buck the strategy adopted by Cadillac and the German brands.
  • The definition of flagship no longer means a brand's most expensive model, Lincoln's global marketing chief told Edmunds.
  • Lincoln is studying the consumer response to the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, an SUV positioned in the middle of Land Rover's model line.

SANTA BARBARA, California — As Lincoln reinvents its brand, the automaker's strategy for a flagship vehicle likely will be significantly different from Cadillac's and that of the German luxury automakers.

While Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz offer cars for six figures, and Cadillac is developing a rear-drive car that will approach that price plateau, Lincoln is eyeing a less expensive vehicle to play the role of flagship. In fact, the flagship may not be Lincoln's most expensive vehicle.

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator is the brand's current flagship vehicle in terms of size and price.

"I think the definition (of flagship) is kind of changing," Matt VanDyke, global head of marketing, sales and service for Lincoln, told Edmunds.

In addition, VanDyke said Lincoln will not compete with the German brands by offering a small vehicle priced below $30,000. In other words, Lincoln will not take aim at the 2015 Audi A3 and 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250.

Lincoln is in the early stages of reinventing the brand.

In terms of determining its flagship strategy, VanDyke said Lincoln's team is watching Land Rover and in particular the success of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, a stylish SUV that is not the brand's most expensive vehicle.

The base 2014 Range Rover Evoque stickers for $42,025 including $925 for shipping; it competes in the small premium utility segment.

"One of the things we pay close attention to is what Land Rover has achieved with the Evoque," VanDyke said. "People are surprised to see the kind of statement that makes for the brand.

"So I don't think it is as easy today to say that a flagship is a (big) sedan, costing $100,000 that sets the tone for the rest of the product line. It is not as simple as it maybe was a decade or two ago."

 He did not say whether a flagship sedan or SUV is favored for Lincoln.

As Lincoln expands its lineup this decade, VanDyke said the brand will not move down-market and offer smaller, less expensive vehicles, as the German brands are doing.

"We have to go up," he said. "We have a Ford brand that has phenomenal products in the $20,000-$30,000 range. Our goal shouldn't be to go down below $30,000 and compete with them. Our goal and transformation needs to be to really entrench ourselves as a true luxury competitor in the higher price points."

Lincoln's lowest-priced model is the 2015 Lincoln MKC, which has a base sticker price of $33,995 including an $895 destination charge.

Edmunds says: Lincoln creates its own rules as it reinvents itself. But the key question is how will car shoppers react?

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