Well, the official announcement that came yesterday was not a huge surprise. In fact, many thought that it would have, or should have, come sooner. But considering that massive brand consolidation that General Motors underwent during the bankruptcy process, I’m sure the idea was not lost on the managers in Dearborn.Even with the head-turning Jill Wagner as its spokesperson, Mercury could not stem the downward slide. This even as the Ford brand continued to reach ever-higher marketshare and critical accolades. It’s not so much that Mercurys were bad cars, but that they weren’t that much different than equivalent Fords, aside from a few minor trim details. And with Ford cars now approaching the $60,000 mark, and its top-of-the-line trucks since surpassing that price point, the whole traditional brand hierarchy of “Good, Better, Best” with Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln was essentially irrelevant and outdated.
Unfortunately, if some drastic action isn’t taken soon with Lincoln, I could very well see it going down the same road as its more bourgeois sibling. Granted, there’s slightly more stylistic differentiation between corresponding Ford and Lincoln models than their Mercury counterparts, but is that enough? What compelling reason is there to choose an MKS over a Taurus SHO, other than a styling preference, and a little more sound deadening on the Lincoln? Same question applies to the Flex and MKT. And yet, the Lincolns still command about a 10-20 percent price premium over their Blue Oval cousins.
What Lincoln needs is a truly distinct model (or multiple models) that are not shared with Ford. Now, in this day and age of platform consolidation and shared resources, I know a truly stand-alone chassis for Lincoln is not realistic or feasible. But, with a little massaging and under-the-skin parts-bin sharing, I think it’s doable.
For that matter, consider the current Mustang. Although a distant relative of the now-defunct Lincoln LS, revived Ford Thunderbird, and even the Jaguar S-Type, it is currently the only model currently sold worldwide using its own chassis and underpinnings. This issue is likely not lost on the Ford brass, who must justify spreading R&D dollars across multiple models and platforms. Making things potentially even more grim is the likely probability that the Aussie-market RWD Falcon will likely be essentially replaced by the Taurus.
Although it may seem strange to have a full-size luxo-yacht and a muscle car share a chassis, it’s more feasible now than in years past. They would both be rear-wheel drive, unibody chassis. Although the Lincoln derivative would naturally be longer and wider than the Mustang, components such as suspension pieces, drivetrains, and other behind-the-scenes pieces could be shared. Even the Mustang’s excellent new 5.0L V8, tuned for quieter NVH, would make a superb flagship powerplant.
In terms of styling inspiration, look no further than the stunning 2002 Continental concept penned by Gerry McGovern. Although no longer part of Ford, he positively nailed the essence of what a Lincoln flagship should be: stately, bold, yet slightly understated. A few minor design tweaks to make it better suited to mass-production, and it should be green-lighted for production, “suicide” doors and all. So what do you say, Alan? Are we going to see a new Continental soon?