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In NY, Lincoln reaches out to younger and cooler customers

The Lincoln MKZ features one of the world’s widest-opening roofs. — Picture courtesy of LincolnThe Lincoln MKZ features one of the world’s widest-opening roofs. — Picture courtesy of LincolnNEW YORK, April 4 — Struggling brand Lincoln is set to burst back onto the luxury automaker scene this week at the New York International Auto Show (April 6-15), as it attempts to gain grounds on flashy rivals such as Lexus and Infiniti.

The Ford-owned make has struggled to attract important younger buyers in recent years and is now undergoing something of a makeover in a bid to become more associated with good design and luxury features.

The new Lincoln MKZ, which Ford believes signifies the start of a new generation of vehicles, was unveiled earlier this week in a Frank Gehry-designed curvy glass building in New York’s hip Chelsea district, the centre of the New York art world.

Designers have clearly been working hard to develop the MKZ’s appeal for a younger audience — at the peak of its sweeping profile is a massive glass roof that retracts to become one of the world’s widest-opening roofs, according to Ford.

In a bid to capitalize on the environmental concerns of today’s younger buyers, the model will be offered with a hybrid powertrain that should give it a claim to being North America’s most fuel-efficient premium sedan, an expected selling point in a market dominated by Toyota-owned Lexus hybrids.

Lincoln was once the best-selling premium automaker in the United States and a globally recognized brand, but with sales last year behind those of Lexus, Audi Cadillac and four other major brands.

As well as a host of new vehicles following the MKZ, Lincoln is also set to draft in consultants from the Les Clefs d’Or hotel concierges association to train its dealership staff, in the hope of delivering a premium ‘Apple-like’ car buying experience.

But the new features and flashy service, automakers are grappling with a more fundamental problem — how to keep young people engaged in cars when they’re reared on a diet of the internet, communications and social networking.

That means that alongside design features, automakers are increasingly opting to load vehicles with more technology, the new Lincoln no exception with its SYNC navigation and communications system and radar-based driving aids.

Competitor Cadillac also heaped technology into its new XTS, while sister brand Chevrolet has taken a rather different approach to reach the new market.

The Chevrolet Code and Tru are two concept models that have been touring the US as part of a feedback exercise for the General Motors-owned brands (both will be at the New York show), with GM bosses hoping that gathering feedback from a target market will help them to create the next best-seller. — AFP/Relaxnews

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