Wednesday’s Words: Thoughts on the “New” Lincoln


Lincoln is at the beginning of rebooting it’s brand, and with that the opportunity to position itself to stand out among all the other “premium” car brands.

It would appear that Lincoln is positioning itself to compete against brands like Volvo, Lexus, Acura, and Audi.  We think, to quote Don Adams, the original Maxwell Smart, they are missing it by that much.

“Premium Luxury” is the new black, everyone is doing it.  To stand out in that very crowded demographic, you have to do something different, and what Lincoln is bringing to market isn’t different enough.

Rather than compete against such a crowded field, we believe that Lincoln needs to look further up market, to take on former Premier Auto Group members Jaguar and Land Rover, the reasons are several.  

Number one, there is less to compete against. When there are few competitiors to draw your attention away, it’s much easier to be the point of focus.

Number two, pricing separation.  As it sits right now, Lincoln will continue to have the issue it has had for a number of years, and that is, it’s just a gussied up Ford.  Look at the Ford Fusion in Titanium trim, out the door it’s going to sell for between $34,000 and $36,000.  The new Lincoln MKZ starts at $37,000 and can go out the door, similarly equipped to the Fusion for about $42,000.  That’s not much of a premium.  The same goes across the board when you look at Edge vs. MKX, Taurus vs MKS and Flex vs. MKT.

While there is now more of a difference in both interior and exterior design, it doesn’t take much of a discerning eye to tell they share a common platform.

Number three, in moving further up market, you have much more pricing power and hence profitability, with the added benefit of having the ability to bring unique looks to both the exterior and interior of the vehicles.  The ability to use much higher quality materials in a more top shelf brand also would help distinguish it from it’s parent brand.

Lastly, in reaching to a higher demographic, Lincoln would have the opportunity to truly be an aspirational brand, rather than just another “premium luxury” brand.  They could redefine what an “American Luxury Brand” is.  Rather than some cliche’ from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, American Luxury doesn’t have to be “boulevard smooth” nor does it have to be the the latest in consumer electronics, rather than “custom” it should be “bespoke”  Most anyone can have “custom” few can have “bespoke”.

Lincoln should not get carried away with “gimmick” interiors that are all about the latest in technology.  As we are beginning to see, most interiors that but a focus on the latest in consumer electronics of the moment, are (a) 9-24 months behind the curve to begin with, and (b) don’t age well, both from looks and from function.  Classic and timeless should be the focus when it comes to interiors at Lincoln.  Simplicity is it’s own luxury.

If Lincoln is to be successful in it’s reboot, it will have to be something different than it’s competitors.  Pretty advertising is great for getting people in the door, but the product must, not match expectations, but far exceed them.  In rebooting the brand, Lincoln HAS the opportunity to place itself where it wants, as they try to start with a clean sheet, the question is, are they positioning themselves for success, or just to get lost in the crowd once again.

New Jaguar XJ – The Designer Overview (with video)

Our friend Joe Simpson of The Movement Design Bureau in London sent us a note that he had spent some time with the designers of the new Jaguar XJ.  This is a great read and the videos are a good insight into some of the thoughts from the designers involved in sculpting both the interior and the exterior.  We are reposting this with their permission


The cat’s eye – new XJ features slim, elongated headlights reminiscent of the C-XF


Pity Jaguar. More specifically, pity Jaguar’s design team. Working for one of the most evocative, well-loved car brands in the world, with a rich history of producing sporting, luxury – but most of all beautiful – cars, might seem like a dream job. Yet when every man and his dog has an opinion on what a Jaguar is, and should be, it’s a tricky task. But after the years of retro style mis-adventures (the X-Type and S-Type), Jaguar is returning to form. But while most commentators seem settled on the view that modern Jags are the equal of the German triumvirate for ride, handling, performance and quality; styling and design are somewhat thornier issues.

The last XJ – the best car in its class in many areas – was still more Bexhill Pavilionthan White Cube in the style stakes. It was a shame, because this mis-matched terribly with the car underneath – one that was constructed largely out of aluminium, and out-rode, out-handled, and out-MPG’d most of the German opposition. Come the XF, Jag went modern, but then whispers about it being Lexus-like and even not Jaguar enough reared their ugly heads. The company can’t seem to win.

The XJ is the final chapter in repositioning the company in terms of design, completing a job that started with the XK, and continued with the XF. It’s also the most daring, and the most shocking piece of design of the three. No one’s been criticising Jaguar for overt-retro style references this time around. Mark came away from the Saatchi gallery launch in the summer highly impressed. And last week, I got an exclusive two hours with the car and its lead exterior and interior designers, Adam Hatton and Mark Phillips – see the two videos below the photo. 

The XJ, with interior design manager Mark Phillips (left) and exterior design manager Adam Hatton (right)

XJ designers

Watch Adam Hatton talk through the exterior design of the Jag XJ in the video below

Watch Mark Phillips talk through the interior deisgn of the Jag XJ in the video below

The car they – and the rest of Jaguar’s team – have conceived, is now altogether more befitting of the car’s high-tech, light-weight aluminium structure than its predecessor. It looks and feels modern – yet slightly quirky – in a way that sits well with Jaguar’s aspirations to be a dynamic, modern, but still quintessentially British sporting luxury brand.

The video interviews reveal a more in-depth, detailed overview of the design, as told by the designers.  Watch and see whether you think they’ve succeeded – we’d be interested to hear your comments. I’m not going to pass judgement on the design until I’ve seen the cars on the road and driven one. Only then will I be able to make up my mind on this car’s two most contentious elements – that blacked-out pillar, and the fully virtual TFT instrument display. Many will have already made up their minds on these aspects based on the pictures – in which there’s a heaviness around the rear three quarters, and over the wheel arches, that feels a tad un-Jaguar-like. Equally, many will dismiss the virtual screen, saying it’ll never match the classiness of a well detailed set of ‘real’ dials. Those doubters may be proved right. 

How my EOS 400D sees the XJ’s virtual instrument panel


Yet in the flesh, there’s a presence to the XJ that sucks you in. No, that rear-pillar doesn’t truly work when the car’s static, but this car grows on you, and keeps you attention by asking you questions. For all the Citroen C6 / Maserati Quattroporte references made post its summer launch, the cars that the XJ reminded me of most, after a few hours in its presence, were the Audi A5 and A7 Sportbacks. Maybe that sounds like damning with faint praise, but it’s meant more in relation to a sense of modernity – than style or surfacing – and as a compliment.

It’s a different, modern piece of work the XJ, and undoubtedly brave in a class that is probably the most conservative of all automotive segments. Yet in many ways it makes sense. It’s less clear than ever who the luxury car customer actually is. The sector has been shrinking faster than most, and is under great pressure for image and environmental reasons.

Rather than simply aping the S-class/A8 model, Jaguar’s done something different – and positioned this car slightly apart from that market, doing something that fits both with the brand, and the high-tech, green construction method. Whether this will prove to be a smart move, only time will tell. But that Jaguar has the confidence to do this at all, tells you all you need to know about the spring-in-the-step of this grand old marque as it prepares to celebrate its 75 birthday.