Ford's Relaunch Of Its Defunct Lincoln Brand Stumbled Badly Out Of The Gate

2013 lincoln mkz red sedanThe new Lincoln MKZ.

In December, Ford officially relaunched lagging luxury brand Lincoln with the introduction of the new MKZ, its bid to wrench customers away from behemoths like BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The company’ executives have acknowledged the difficulty of relaunching the defunct brand, once the choice of presidents and celebrities, now the go-to ride for livery cab drivers.

They say it’s an uphill battle, one that will take years, and that the MKZ is just the first step (three new cars should debut in the next three years).

The situation has been made even tougher by a series of delays that kept the cars out of dealerships (and customer hands), potentially wasting an expensive early 2013 advertising campaign that effectively raised awareness of the relaunch.

Lincoln director of global marketing Matt VanDyke¬†framed the relaunch as especially challenging.¬†“We really have lost a whole generation of the luxury market. We have to acknowledge that head-on,” VanDyke told The Detroit Times, adding that Lincoln is not on many buyers’ “radar screens.”

We’ve seen the MKZ, and while we haven’t driven it yet, we were largely impressed: It’s a good-looking car.

But the delays have taken their toll: In the first two months of 2013, Lincoln sales were down 25 per cent, according to the Detroit News. That ground can be made up, but not easily.

And the already formidable challenge of coming back from the near-dead is about to get tougher.

The New York Auto Show this week will see the birth of the new Audi A3, Cadillac CTS, and Mercedes CLA45 AMG. Even Buick, another lagging luxury brand, has a new performance sedan that may actually appeal to young shoppers.

Those cars won’t hit dealerships for a while, so Lincoln does not have to worry about them just yet.

But the delays in getting the MKZs to dealers could prove fatal, squandering public interest in the brand at a crucial moment.

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