In 1956, the designation of the world’s most expensive car belonged to Lincoln. The Continental Mark II was a tour de force in styling, luxury, rarity, and price: completely hand-finished, it took twice as long to build as any other Lincoln and came with 43 upholstery choices and 19 colors. In an age of obnoxious fins and chrome spears, it was understated in a European style, something that would be lost on later generations. As a result, it actually looked expensive. And expensive it was—at $10,000 in 1956, the equivalent of $80,000 today, it cost as much as a Rolls-Royce. It cost as much as two Cadillacs. Elvis drove one, as did Frank Sinatra. The Shah of Iran had one, before his unpleasant exile. And it’s little surprise, whether by design or by the whims of the market, or both, that only 3,000 were built over two years—guaranteeing its rarity and value as a classic.
The sordid history of big Lincolns is lost on anyone without an AARP membership, or a morbid fascination with the Zapruder film. Lincoln hasn’t built a Continental in 10 years; its last model was based on a Taurus chassis shared with a minivan. For Lincoln, there’s no way it can command the resources and brand image of a luxury flagship when it sells less than 20,0o0 MKS sedans per year. (By contrast, BMW sells about 6,000 examples of its 5 Series per month.) But that’s OK. Like Acura and Buick, Lincoln is aiming for volume sales instead of attention-grabbing flagship vehicles, because it certainly needs the sales. And the money.
Lincoln is focusing on segments that will grant higher volumes, like the entry-level luxury market with the MKZ. As Lincoln’s newest vehicle in years, it could be a flagship. But it has to capture sales away from the Acura ILX and TSX, the Buick Verano and Regal, and the Audi A3, before it can justify getting the funding necessary for a world-beating Continental. Certainly Lincoln is enamored with the idea. But, as Automotive News cites, “Lincoln’s strategy might be dubbed, ‘walk before you run.’”
Lincoln will follow up the MKZ with an equally small crossover, the MKC, based on the Ford Escape. This mirrors Acura’s strategy of pairing the ILX with the RDX. And if the MKZ and its Fusion derivative are any indication, Ford has learned to do a far better job of differentiating between its two remaining brands than in years past.
Henry Ford once said, “a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” In that regard, the company he sired is learning to make money in the first place, so it can actually stay in business. That beautiful 1956 Continental? Even at $10,o00 a pop, Ford lost money on every single one built. Lincoln doesn’t want to have that problem again.
Source: Automotive News