MKZ’s launch starts the new Lincoln-Lexus war

Article by Christian A., on August 20, 2012

The new Lincoln MKZ sedan that will come out this fall will be going up against the very popular Lexus ES, a new rival. Lincoln’s brand managers said that the mid-sized 2013 MKZ has a retail price of $36,800, which includes freight. This makes it a bit more affordable than the Lexus ES, which was also redesigned for 2013.

Lincoln’s marketing strategies are targeted at new demographic groups as it aims to be aligned with a luxury import customer base. In addition, the brand is reforming its retail chain to acquire the type of concierge approach to customers that Lexus started in the early 1990s. From January to July, Lincoln sold 48,937 units in the U.S., a 2% drop.

Meanwhile, the overall market has improved by 14%. Lexus sales in the U.S. have recovered by 23% to 126,367 units this year after its inventory experienced shortages due to the impact of the earthquake in March 2011. Lexus is preparing a plan to boost the market position of the ES.

Just last week, Jim Lenz, the CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A, hinted at the possibility that Toyota will transfer its ES production to North America from Japan to reduce the effects of the strengthening yen.

When Lincoln executives presented the new MKZ at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, Lexus and the ES were mentioned several times. C.J. O'Donnell, Lincoln group marketing manager, said that Cadillac has always been Lincoln’s main rival but there will soon be other SUVs entering this segment.

The dominant feature on the profile of the new Lincoln MKZ is the sweeping roofline. With the windshield being steeply raked and the backlight being extended, this allowed for a more flowing and sleeker look. In addition, this also results in this new luxury sedan having aerodynamics that is better by 10% compared to the previous version.

Lincoln Design director Max Wolff said that the shape of the MKZ is a vision that is complemented using only a few strokes. While the overall design does have a contemporary feel to it, it continues to have many of the design elements in the classis Lincoln models. Take for example the split-wing grille. This was first placed on the 1938 Lincoln-Zephyr and though it is part of the new Lincoln MKZ, it shows a refined interpretation.

Meanwhile the rearview mirrors have been positioned on the sculpted pedestals and are themselves mounted on the door. This particular set-up allows the glass in the front door to be extended forward farther than usual.

Thus, it enhances visibility while ensuring that more light is able to enter the cabin. The headlamp assemblies are well crafted and use the energy efficient yet bright LED lights. Since the headlights are able to turn in the direction of the steering wheel, this improves visibility even further. On its rear section, the use of LED technology allowed for the unique and thin full-width taillamp graphic.

According to Director Wolff, the approach done on the Lincoln MKZ is known as elegant simplicity. He added that the brand wanted this model to be both approachable and inviting. This is why, he continued, the brand decided not to use standard luxury cues and even designs that were considered complex. Wolff said further that this is why they come with a vehicle that is rich and warm and still restrained.

The 2013 Lincoln MKZ is almost similar to the Lincoln MKZ Concept that was unveiled during the North American International Auto Show held in January 2012. Still, this production version shows that it has a design language that is truly unique.

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