However independant the Lincoln has been within its parent Ford Motor Company, from a newly acquired asset, all the way to full integration and back to being the Lincoln Motor Company, the brand is tied to the global strategic orientations made by the folks of Dearborn: these will determine what markets to open, which segments to challenge and financial guidelines for years to come. In the past, some corporate plans have had names: the most famous being the “Way Forward” initiated by Bill Ford and taken over by Alan Mulally which started harsh restructuration measures well before the financial meltdown that brought General Motors and Chrysler to their knees. Then there was the “One Ford” plan designed by Mulally himself and which sought to harmonize the brand’s global operations and development to save on costs and provide world-class products. That plan also planted the seeds to Lincoln’s turnaround.
Now, the Ford Motor Company is releasing the details of its new plan, called “2020 Vision”. This plan, the first to be designed by Mark Fields’ team following the departure of head honcho Mulally, bets on global sales success to achieve a 50% increase in sales by 2020. Which is, incidentally, right around the corner.
Where does that leave Lincoln? Well, as it turns out Lincoln is going to be a key player in that plan with increased North-American presence and development in China to allow for the brand to reach 300,000 units in sales. For the record, in 2013 the brand’s total sales were just over 81,000 units: this year, they’re up 13.3% (as of september 2014) to reach around 67,000 units. It’s still a big leap forward which should be driven by the Chinese market, where luxury cars fare really well with the ever-growing upper middle-class. In 2013, Cadillac posted sales of around 190,000 units in North America.
Still, Lincoln will not rely solely on China to grow and assert its presence on the luxury car market: Ford plans a 2.5 billion dollar investment in the brand by 2020, including the release of four new models. One is already taking shape, with the next-generation of the MKX crossover teased by way of a concept shown at the Beijing auto show. One has been teased for a while and remaines shrouded in mystery: so far nobody knows for sure what platform will underpin the next-generation MKS. Of note is the fact that the actual investment report detailing this plan does name the MKX but refers to the MKS just as a “full-size sedan”, while the wording of the section centered on Lincoln clearly articulates that new products will be developped with China in mind -not unlike Buicks. Now, this brings us back to another rumour to the effect that Lincoln could in China use actual “legacy names” to bank on the brand’s cachet among the Chinese public.
The other two though appear much more mysterious. They might very well have something to do with rumours that an all-new aluminium-clad Navigator is in the works, or explore the segment left vacant by the demise of the MKT full-size crossover, or even explore the premium compact segment. For the latter, it has to be said that no word has been heard since the presentation of the Lincoln C Concept in 2009 and the phasing out of Mercury which was said to receive its version of the Focus.
Some will also say 2.5 billion dollars is not enough for such ambitions when spread out over more than five years, especially compared to the amount of money General Motors invested in the “Arts and Science” plan. I would say it is not about how much you spend but how you spend it, and Lincoln already put its last investments to good use given the care put in the development and release of the MKC premium crossover. Also, increased sales at home and in China would surely bring profits meant to be reinvested right away for continued development of the brand.
So, all in all, “Vision 2020” is decidedly a show of trust in Lincoln’s efforts and continued development. This investment will help push an increasingly distinct product portfolio, and will surely allow the conception of these four new models to benefit from even better features.