Lincoln Readies for 'Game-Changing' Product Launches
One is an entry-level luxury sedan that has helped re-energize Lincoln car sales. The other is about to enter the crossover marketplace later this year. Both carry the challenge of re-defining 21st century luxury within Ford Motor Company's Lincoln brand. The 2006 Lincoln Zephyr mid-size sedan and the 2007 Lincoln MKX (pronounced "Mark X") crossover utility vehicle (CUV) are both considered "game-changing" products as Lincoln moves to be America's luxury brand. With more than 12,000 units sold so far this year, Zephyr has helped boost overall Lincoln car sales 22 percent while delivering a 41 percent conquest customer rate. "We are extremely pleased with what Zephyr has been able to deliver," said Tom Grill, Lincoln brand manager. "The average life expectancy of a Zephyr on a dealer lot is 18 days, and it has also been holding its residual value. We're doing it because the design is right, the packaging is right and quite frankly, the volumes are right." 2007 Lincoln MKZ Answers Question of Power"Nothing replaces cutting-edge product that is priced right," said Ed Witt, owner of Witt Lincoln Mercury in San Diego. "I can’t keep them in stock. I never have more than two or three units on the ground at any time since the car has been out." Lincoln will build on Zephyr's momentum with the launch of the new Lincoln MKZ this fall -- complete with a more powerful V-6 engine, a newly designed front end, more traction with available all-wheel-drive (AWD), along with the new name. The MKZ's new Duratec 35 engine, paired with a 6-speed transmission, will deliver 250 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. "With the improvement of horsepower and available all wheel drive coming on the MKZ, all in the first year of the life of the vehicle, is in itself a game changing move for Lincoln," said Grill. 2007 Lincoln MKX Joins CUV Field With the upcoming launch of the all-new 2007 Lincoln MKX late this year, Lincoln is "crossing over" to where the customers are. As a five-passenger CUV to be powered by an all-new 3.5-liter engine with a six-speed transmission, the MKX gives Lincoln its first entry into the red-hot crossover market. Many analysts have predicted that CUV sales would overtake those of traditional SUVs by the end of the decade, and some feel it will happen this year. "CUV sales have grown from about 500,000 units in 2000, when there were 15 models available, to over 2.2 million units last year across 41 nameplates," said U.S. sales analyst George Pipas. "By comparison, traditional SUV sales came in at about 2.4 million units in 2005, after having peaked at 3 million units a year as recently as 2002. No one will argue that CUVs will be considered the vehicle of this decade.""I think that right now we have the best product that we’ve ever had," said Witt, the dealer in San Diego. "Now the key is to keep it coming."