LOS ANGELES — Lincoln Motor Co. reclaimed its iconic front signature grille and renamed its MKX midsize sport utility vehicle with the unveiling of the Lincoln Nautilus on Wednesday.
“We want the customer to make an emotional connection with the vehicle. And it’s easier to make an emotional connection with a name than with letters,” said Lincoln President Kumar Galhotra.
Lincoln’s bestselling SUV is attracting new drivers to the brand, with a conquest rate of nearly 40% as buyers migrate from Cadillac, Lexus and other brands. The redesigned vehicle is on track to deliver its best sales year since its introduction in 2007, according to Lincoln.
China is considered a major growth opportunity for Lincoln. The company sold 11,630 vehicles there in 2015, 32,588 in 2016 and 45,729 this year through October.
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Changing the name of its bestselling vehicle brings not only brand consistency, but an easier pronunciation for Chinese consumers who have said they struggle with letter names, Galhotra said.
Fact is, the shift to a new name helps everybody, said Robert Parker, Lincoln’s global director of marketing sales and service. He told of riding a shuttle bus at Detroit Metro Airport while listening to a couple debate in a desperate attempt to describe their vehicle to the shuttle driver. It turned out to be a letter-named Lincoln.
The new Nautilus has space for up to five passengers and includes more head and leg room because of redesigned seating, plus lumbar massages to reduce fatigue. Lincoln noted that the seat feature was developed with input from orthopedic surgeons.
Dave Sullivan, product analysis manager at AutoPacific, said, “The Nautilus is Lincoln's answer to the Lexus RX and the Jeep Grand Cherokee - both sell in the six digits. Lincoln is expected to sell roughly 30,000 a year in the U.S. The opportunity for Lincoln is huge and the new name, front styling, and transmission will breathe some new life into the car formerly known as the MKX.”
2019 Lincoln Nautilus (Photo: James Lipman)
“We acknowledge we’re a challenger brand,” Parker said.
Lincoln carefully selected the name Nautilus, which is based on the Greek nautilos, or "sailor."
Other new technologies for the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus include a lane-centering feature that pairs with adaptive cruise control to help maintain the vehicle’s position in its lane using a combination of radar and cameras.
Also debuting is evasive steer assist, which uses radar and cameras to analyze the gap between slower-moving and stationary vehicles on the road to lessen risk of a rear-end collision. If the risk is high and there is insufficient space to avoid a collision by braking, the system helps the driver steer around the vehicle.
The Nautilus offers an all turbocharged engine lineup for 2019, offering a 2.7-liter engine that delivers 335 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque. A standard 245-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is efficient in operation. Both engines include standard auto start-stop capability, plus an eight-speed automatic transmission.
“The Nautilus is in a hyper-competitive segment that yields strong profit margins. Investing a little in this vehicle should pay dividends,” Sullivan said. “It will also help the image of Lincoln's crossovers, which they need as consumer demand continues to shift at a rapid pace.”
Lincoln continues to increase its focus on concierge detail by offering vehicle pickup and delivery as a standard service to customers. Lincoln executives said research shows that affluent people value experiences over objects, and time is the most precious of all.
Lincoln is piloting programs that include home delivery for test drives, making available for hourly fees personal drivers and flexible month-to-month leasing.
The personal driver feature, renamed from chauffeur service (consumers didn’t find the name appealing), is being expanded from San Diego and Miami to include Dallas. Lincoln owners are using personal drivers to take couples out for the evening, pick up children from their athletic activities and run errands. The leasing program begins in California in 2018.
Parker said Gen X and Millennial consumers are accustomed to options, upgrades and paying monthly fees for cell phone service and other things.
Also, starting Jan. 1, new Lincoln owners will receive a six-month complimentary CLEAR membership, allowing them to speed through security at participating airports and sports venues including Detroit, New York, San Francisco and Miami. Lincoln Black Label members will receive a 12-month complimentary membership.
The 2017 Lincoln MKX starts at $38,260. The new 2019 Lincoln Nautilus will be available at Lincoln dealers this spring. Its price has not been released.
Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: email@example.com or 313-222-6512. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid.
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