In a somewhat surprising but not totally unexpected move, Lincoln announced its intention to abandon the MK nomenclature throughout its lineup. The paradigm shift officially ends Lincoln’s effort to emulate its competitors, with the brand opting for a strategy aimed at separating itself from its rivals, although this had already been happening for a while now. A luxury brand with a lineup devoid of alphanumeric names is practically unheard of in 2017. Is it time for others to follow suit?
Lincoln flirted with the idea of adding new, fully named models to its lineup with the Navigator and Zephyr, but this was short lived, as the sedan was renamed MKZ for the 2007 model year. Ford wanted the Lincolns to be pronounced “Mark Z,” but people immediately began to just pronounce the names by the way they were spelled.
Despite the confusion of the MK names, what really imperiled Lincoln was the recession and Mulally’s reluctance to sink more of Ford’s limited resources into a struggling brand. But rumors of Lincoln’s demise were greatly exaggerated.
The current crop of Lincoln vehicles are what set the brand on a path to relevancy. And the 2019 Nautilus aims to continue the upward climb that began with the introduction of the 2013 MKZ five years ago. The “new” crossover is essentially just a refreshed MKX, updated with the new corporate grille, some safety tech, and an 8 speed automatic transmission.
Curiously, Lincoln didn’t rename the MKC, despite the compact crossover receiving similar updates for its own 2019 refresh.
Looking at the current lineup, its easy to see why they might not be in such a rush to switch things up. With the MKX gone, the MKC essentially becomes the last Lincoln crossover to use the old naming system, so there is less room for confusion. The MKT likely appeals to hardcore Lincoln fans that never had a problem with the MK system anyway, and the other people interested in it probably don’t care about vehicle names at all. We’ll probably hear about its replacement next year. Rumors suggest the Aviator name will be revived explicitly for that purpose.
Ironically, the first Lincoln to wear the MK designation will likely be the last. With only two sedans in its lineup, Lincoln can take its time with the change. Will the MKZ once again become the Zephyr? Its possible, but the company may want a more complete break with the past. Lincoln also recently trademarked the Corsair name, but that is probably destined for a Focus-based compact that will slot below the next generation mid size and sit at the $30,000 price point.
Lincoln’s move is noteworthy, but also somewhat necessary, as illustrated by this screenshot from Good Car Bad Car. The MKX currently moves about fifty percent fewer units per month than the Cadillac XT5. And the Lexus RX nearly doubles the Americans. There is definitely an incentive for them to make the switch.
The Lincoln MKC occupies a spot in the luxury compact crossover segment that mirrors its larger sibling.
The MKZ and Continental are more competitive in their respective segments, but the Lexus juggernaut still looms large when it comes to mid tier luxury sedans. What is notable in all three screenshots is the dearth of actual names. In fact, the only other models to feature them don’t really compete with Lincoln, so the company will definitely have some exclusivity going for it in the near future.
It will be interesting to see if the transition resonates with customers. The new strategy has met with near universal praise from the various blogs and automotive websites who have covered the Los Angeles Auto Show. Should Lincoln’s competitors also embrace change? I can think of at least one luxury brand that should definitely do it: Acura.
And the one caveat here is that actual names only work if they’re good. Basically, try not to name a vehicle Kicks.