A Lincoln exec explains why the automaker wasn't surprised by the success of its new Navigator SUV — and promises a fully electric Lincoln is in the works

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderThe Lincoln Navigator.

Ford is in the middle of an $US11-billion turnaround plan, led by CEO Jim Hackett, that looks to be gaining some traction after about two years. Since the beginning of the year, Ford’s stock – declining for much of Hackett’s tenure – has reversed course and is now up over 20%.

Within Ford, there’s been a turnaround story that’s been ongoing for almost a decade now: Lincoln.

Lincoln was on the chopping block back when Ford was reorganising before and after the financial crisis. But Ford decided to keep its luxury brand alive, and the marque survived to see its 101st birthday last August.

The revival of the brand has been impressive. Now led by Ford veteran Joy Falotico – she oversees Ford marketing in addition to serving as Lincoln’s president – Lincoln enjoyed a great year in 2018 thanks to the redesign of its Navigator full-size SUV, a Business Insider Car of the Year finalist.

Read more:
How Lincoln returned from near death and restored Ford’s luxury brand

The Navigator is so popular with dealers that Ford hasn’t been able to build enough to satisfy demand. But the brand has also been launching new and revamped crossovers to slot in below Navigator. The Aviator and Nautilus are on sale now, and Lincoln launched a new vehicle, the Corsair, at the recent New York auto show to fill out the range and provide customers with an entry-level option.

2018 LINCOLN NAVIGATORFordNavigator’s 2018 debut.

“We’re very pleased with the momentum and energy we have around the brand,” Falotico said in an interview with Business Insider at the Corsair’s debut.

While the Navigator’s sales surge might have surprised some observers who’ve fixated on new electric vehicles from luxury automakers, Falotico said that Lincoln knew it had a winner with the SUV, which was launched at last year’s New York auto show.

“I think we thought if it were going to happen with any vehicle, it would be Navigator,” she said. “We created that segment, and the vehicle turned out so beautiful. The team did a great job.”

What about electric vehicles?

2020 Lincoln AviatorLincolnThe new Lincoln Aviator comes in a hybrid trim level.

To a degree, Lincoln has benefited from a shift among buyers away from sedans and over to crossovers. The brand sells four-doors, including the legendary Continental. But it’s also had a strong lineup of SUVs, even before it entered its new-product cadence and began to rename crossovers as the brand realigned it identity, first around the “quiet luxury” concept and then later “quiet flight.”

But what about the enthusiasm for electric vehicles? Lincoln’s crosstown rival, Cadillac, announced prior to this year’s Detroit auto show that it would be the tip of General Motors’ electrification spear.

Falotico said that Lincoln has plans to electrify the lineup, pointing to a hybrid version of the Aviator that’s now at dealerships.

But she also said that Lincoln would make a fully battery-electric vehicle.

“It’s too early to talk about it now,” she said. “But it will be coming. For sure.”

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