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New life for Lincoln from the ashes of Mercury

Wed, 02 Jun 2010

The demise of Mercury has one potentially positive outcome for the car world: a revitalization of Lincoln.

News of Mercury's pending closure was paired with Ford's plans to boost Lincoln's lineup. Six new or significantly refreshed products will arrive in the next four years, and a seventh, the restyled MKX, is preparing for launch.

“Lincoln has a good foundation,” Ford's president of the Americas Mark Fields said.

The brand will get a C-segment car (Ford Focus-size), but not the reborn Tracer that was announced for Mercury last winter. Product vice president Derrick Kuzak said the Lincoln compact will be a clean-sheet design.

The luxury brand will also get its own V6, though details were not specified. EcoBoost, which combines direct injection and turbocharging to increase performance in smaller-displacement engines, will be added across the Lincoln line. That will include the Navigator SUV and the new C-segment compact. More fuel-efficient transmissions also will be added.

Additionally, Lincoln will be fortified with comfort and convenience packages, including fully retractable glass roofs, electronic push-button gear shifters, and computer-controlled adaptive suspensions. MyLincoln Touch, a takeoff that expands Sync, was also announced earlier for Lincoln.

Kuzak said Lincoln will sharpen its identity through “engaging driving dynamics” and “warm, comfortable interiors.”

Ford is optimistic that Lincoln will become more competitive with Lexus and Cadillac. Lincoln's share of the retail luxury market has increased from 4.5 percent in 2005 to 6.3 percent in 2010. The MKZ hybrid sedan is expected to further strengthen sales when it arrives later this year.

Lincoln and the Ford brand will get the resources freed up by Mercury's demise, including money, people and sales muscle. Mercury employees will move to Lincoln.

Lincoln's focus will be in North America. Ford wouldn't say whether Lincoln could be expanded globally.

The brand remains one of the only luxury lines without a true performance halo. It hasn't even had a coupe in recent memory, though the Continental and the Mark Series were favorites of drivers seeking posh two-doors. Kuzak says the MKS, with its EcoBoost engine and imposing large-sedan styling, is the top of the luxury line for now.

“It's a very credible flagship,” he said.

By Greg Migliore