Blog: Lincoln's surge pushes it past Infiniti
Glenn Brooks | 3 August 2011
A great month for the Em Kay Zee hybrid
Finally, it seems that Ford Motor Company's belief in the under-performing Lincoln division is paying dividends. US market sales might only be up one percent over 2010 for the year to date but until July's numbers came in yesterday, things were not looking too good. As Bill notes in his round-up of the July market, Lincoln managed a 40 percent YoY rise.
Most of the improvement was courtesy of the six-year old MKZ, which seems on the surface a curious phenomenon given that the car comes with a standard 3.5-litre V6 at a time when buyers increasingly prefer four-cylinder units. Ford doesn't break out numbers for the gasoline-electric variant but it would be surprising if the MKZ Hybrid and its fuel efficient four-cylinder engine wasn't the secret to some of the model's recent success.
Priced at the same level as the MKZ, the Hybrid is also a cheaper car than the rival Lexus HS 250h. Incidentally, the HS is yet to set the sales charts alight almost two years on from when it first hit the US market, with only 1,663 units sold for the year to the end of July.
So with 7,814 sales in July and 49,817 for the year to date, is Lincoln out of the woods in the only market where it does anything that could be labelled decent volume? Not yet. The ongoing vehicle and parts supply issues were no doubt much of the reason why only 7,410 Infinitis were sold in the US last month. Still, the fact that Lincoln managed to outsell a rival premium brand for the first time in a long while is still a handy achievement.
One brilliant month is of course nowhere near being a trend, and there will be some ups and downs ahead. Lincoln will soon lose one model, the Town Car, which has alone accounted for an average of 13 percent (6,686 cars) of its US market volume throughout 2011. The St Thomas plant in Ontario is scheduled to be shuttered in September and there is no direct replacement for this aged limo, so brand sales in the fourth quarter might not be too hot.
Ford must be hoping that two additional models due for launch in 2012 will give Lincoln what it really needs: a fuel-efficient and relatively high volume Focus-based sedan as well as a mid-sized crossover. This time next year, if the launches of these vehicles are successful, the allure of the brand might well start to become entrenched in the minds of those cross-shopping rival vehicles. Then, Ford might give Lincoln what it really needs - a proper push into China as well as the world's other rapidly-rising premium brand markets.
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