Is RWD Breathing Life into Lincoln

For the last year rumors about the death of Lincoln and Mercury have been frequent conversation subjects. Will these brands find a new target? Are they hopelessly behind the times? The answer, at least where Lincoln is concerned, is a positive one, because Ford's vice president in charge of global product development, Derrick Kuzak, announced recently that real-wheel drive is coming to the Lincoln brand, and is an important component of a vehicle to be released in the future. Many auto experts have felt that the Ford group had given up on real-wheel drive, leaving the technology to German and Japanese luxury carmakers and Cadillac, especially in the light of the fact that Lincoln's flagship sedan, the MKS is not only a front-wheel-drive, but doesn't even have a V-8 engine, only an EcoBoost V-6. The MKS is a four-seat sport sedan that was introduced at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Ford's new head of marketing, Jim Farley, said that while the target customers for the MKS aren't really performance seekers, they still want dynamic steering and braking, and industry experts, including Alisa Priddle from Car and Driver feel that this means there is ample opportunity for a new flagship vehicle with rear-wheel drive, and that that the technology would be a good move for Ford and Mercury branded cars as well.

In a recent article, Priddle wrote, "We expect some future Ford and Mercury vehicles also would be candidates for rear drive, especially as Ford has put its Australian operations in charge of a new global RWD platform." She goes on to point out that Ford doesn't seem ready to export the Australian-produced cars, however, because of currency exchange rates and freight costs. Even with the anticipated rear-wheel drive vehicles, Lincoln has a lot of high expectations to live up to, many dropped by parent-company Ford. It is stealing the volume lead (of the two companies) from sister-company Mercury, and is using the debut of the MKS to push fuel-efficiency and highlight the EcoBoost engine technology.

The addition of rear-wheel drive will help, but there will still be heavy competition against companies that have been offering it for years. Still, there is already some favorable news: Lincoln had a nine percent sales increase from 2006 to 2007, making it the largest sales improvement for a luxury brand in the United States, and with the mid-sized MKX sedan and MKS crossover, as well as the new Navigator, their product line has received a much-needed face-lift. As well as the not-yet-released MKS, there are reports that Lincoln will also be offering a counterpart to Ford's Flex. Rumors are still flying fast and furious. Company officials insist that Mercury is alive and well, and point to the end-of-year release of a new Milan, but it looks like Lincoln is a safe bet, at least through 2010.

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