Goodbye Lincoln Town Car Limo. Hello Lincoln MKT Airport Car.
Ford, the long-time leader in the limousine and "black car" business, is planning to offer two versions of its MKT crossover SUV to livery companies as it readies to phase out its ubiquitous Lincoln Town Car.
Ford is scheduled to close its St. Thomas Ontario plant next year where the Town Car and Ford Crown Victoria have been built. The engineering platforms for those cars date back to the 1970s, though they have been improved since then several times. But Ford deemed it not worth the investment to upgrade the vehicle architectures for 21st century safety and emissions standards.
The automaker is touting the Lincoln MKT as having more headroom and more advanced technology, especially modern telematics: Lincoln My Touch.
The MKT, launched in 2009, has been controversial for its styling, which many critics find hearse-like. Lincoln has sold just 5,701 MKTs in 2010 through September. It is built in Chicago alongside the Ford Taurus, Ford Flex and Lincoln MKS. Livery, or "black car" sals for the MKT could add 20,000 a year.
But it won't be a slam-dunk to switch Town Car buyers to MKT. The Cadillac DTS vies for that market, as well as the Chrysler 300. One of the attractions the Town Car has been its robust rear-wheel body-on-frame chassis that make the cars durable and relatively easy and inexpensive to fix.
The MKT will continue to carry the Lincoln brand in the livery business despite the fact that some analysts and critics think the Lincoln branding on the Town Car has held back the brand from being fully accepted by the affluent car buyer. Ford executives say that the advanced technology of the MKT and the car's modern design will do more to attract buyers than repel them.
Lincoln's new livery vehicles will be manufactured at an assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, starting in early 2012. "Lincoln has been the leader in livery and limousine solutions for decades, and we are pleased to introduce fresh options to satisfy a whole new generation of customers," said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company's president of the Americas.
Ford said it plans to offer a standard livery MKT with stretched second-row seating and a modified heavy-duty chassis version designed for limousine modification. The livery version is available in both front-wheel and all-wheel-drive. The heavy-duty limousine chassis will feature standard all-wheel drive for stretch limousine construction up to an additional 120 inches – or 10 feet – of wheelbase.