While executives at Lincoln say that the 2015 Navigator is a moderate refreshening, the full-sized luxury SUV is actually expected to retake the lead in a segment the brand pioneered in the 1990s but eventually lost to the Cadillac Escalade.
Lincoln is hoping that the 2015 Navigator would serve as a reminder that the brand is still one of the dominant names in the luxury car industry, preparing customers to the real deal after two or three years when Lincoln rolls out a redesigned Navigator.
While Lincoln executives won’t discuss future product plans, industry analysts expect the new Navigator to bear an aluminum body. Lincoln was credited with creating the full-size luxury truck-based SUV segment, rolling out the MY1997 Navigator in 1996.
Cadillac followed suit in 1997 with the Escalade. The Navigator topped the segment until 2001, when the Escalade managed to get pass its main rival and has not been challenged dutifully since then. For every three or four Escalades that Cadillac sells, only one Navigator is sold by Lincoln. Despite being proud of being the creator of the segment, Lincoln was not able to keep with rivals in the category.
This is simply because management at its parent Ford Motor Co. paid more attention to its luxury brands in Europe like Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Lincoln somewhat helped to the Navigator’s fall after placing only little investment either in the vehicle itself or in supporting marketing.
In fact, the Navigator had its last refresh in the 2007 model year, when LInconl added a long-wheelbase version, an independent rear axle and a hydro-formed front end. Despite the lack of significant advertising, Lincoln was able to sell around 8,500 Navigators annually since 2009.
Navigator sales peaked at 43,859 in 1998. Now that Ford has divested its European brands, it has shifted its focus back into Lincoln, reinventing it as an American-style luxury brand that appeals to younger “culturally progressive” customers.