The cross-over-utility styled Lincoln MKT will replace the Lincoln Town Car sedan as the next generation luxury vehicle and limousine for the chauffeured transportation industry, starting with the 2013 model year. Ford and Lincoln managers made the official announcement to operators on Wednesday at 2:37 p.m. CDT during a special forum at the LCT Leadership Summit held this week at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park Hotel.
The confirmation of the Lincoln MKT as the next luxury livery vehicle — a fact that had been informally discussed and speculated on by operators and dealers for months — now sets in motion one of the most sweeping product transitions the industry has ever experienced.
It also likely heralds a major vehicle buying binge among operators for at least the next three years as many snatch up the last Lincoln Town Cars while planning to add the first model year of the livery MKT to chauffeured transportation fleets.
Most notable about the MKT decision is Lincoln’s departure from the traditional sedan body style that has defined successive versions of the Lincoln Town Car Executive L for decades. But Ford managers made the bottom line very clear: The new “taller” and “longer” MKT CUV-style body will offer more legroom, headroom, cargo space, and overall durability and flexibility — most notably a version with an all-wheel-drive power train that makes the vehicle more palatable to run in snowier northern climates.
Ford also will build a second version of its livery model MKT that has a heavy duty chassis that can be made available for aftermarket stretching for up to 120 inches by Ford QVM manufacturers.
The new Lincoln livery vehicles will be built at the Oakville Assembly Plant in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
The MKT announcement culminates a three-year research, design and development process by Ford to find out how the nation’s leading automaker could exceed the quality and performance expectations established by the venerable Town Car. Ford and Lincoln managers met with potential customers and fleet drivers in workshops and test-runs around the nation to find out exactly what chauffeured transportation operators needed and desired in a next-generation livery vehicle.
One retired NFL football player standing 6-foot, 6-inches was reportedly smitten by the MKT after sampling the rear seat space in a prototype version during a customer workshop, and declared it his preferred chauffeured vehicle of choice.
A primary challenge for Ford in developing a successor vehicle was handling the fierce loyalty to the Lincoln Town Car Executive L that had grown among operators nationwide in the last two decades during which Lincoln has dominated the luxury livery vehicle market.
The MKT announcement this week now dissolves much of the industry concern and impatience that had festered since 2007 about the future of Lincoln limousine and livery vehicles. Ford can now provide a definite, public timeline for fleet owners needing to make product and spending decisions:
• 2Q 2011: Order bank closes for the 2011 Lincoln Town Car Executive L
• 3Q 2011: Ford will manufacture the last 2011 Lincoln Town Car Executive L.
• 4Q 2011: Order bank opens for the 2013 Lincoln MKT (livery version)
• 1Q 2012: Ford begins production of the 2013 Lincoln MKT (livery version)
DETAILS TO COME
Lincoln is still working on certain key details of the 2013 Lincoln MKT, which officials could not yet disclose during the forum:
1) Vehicle pricing
2) Exact engine configurations, such as size, cylinders and horsepower
4) Date of delivery of the first (Job 1) production batch in 2012 to dealers and operators.
5) Official Ford exterior and interior photos of both MKT livery versions. [Concept photos were displayed on a large screen during the power point presentation].
Former Ford limousine and livery fleet manager Jeff Nichols, who made his last official industry appearance Wednesday, assured operators that the MKT would have the same 150,000 mile warranty plan as the Town Car. Nichols, who was replaced by commercial vehicle pool account manager Brad Roney on Sept. 1, managed the limousine and livery program for the last two years. He recently was promoted to global fleet manager of the North American Fleet, Lease and Remarketing Operations (NAFLRO) division of Ford Motor Co. ARTICLE ON FORD LIVERY MANAGEMENT CHANGES HERE
Nichols told the 180 Summit attendees assembled in the Fairmont’s International Ballroom that Ford decided to speed up the announcement of the MKT livery model by 12 months compared to the typical timeline of a vehicle product release. “That’s why some of the information and characteristics are still in development,” he said.
“Since this industry depends so much on our vehicles, we felt the need to come out and say as much as we possibly can,” Nichols said. “Usually, everything is done when we announce a vehicle.”
KEY MKT ENGINE AND TECHNOLOGY FEATURES
The bulk of the 50-minute MKT presentation centered on the vehicle’s amenities, detailed by Gerry Koss, fleet marketing manager:
• Front wheel drive (FWD) and all wheel drive (AWD) powertrains
• 18-inch wheels with sidewalls
• USB charging ports and 110-volt plug-in capability in rear seats along with Wi-Fi hot-spot capability
• BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) cross-traffic alert system that uses radar sensors and warning lights to help drivers avoid collisions with vehicles in blind-spot zones
• Rear-view camera for backing
• Bluetooth capability
• Limousine chassis: Upgraded suspension, electric power-assisted steering, upsized braking system, heavy-duty transmission, unique wheel bearings
KEY MKT COMFORT FEATURES
• 39.6 cubic feet of cargo/trunk space, an increase compared to the Town Car.
• A retractable Tonneau cover for rear cargo area to hide luggage
• A separate covered area in cargo compartment for chauffeur/driver items and supplies
• Second-row seat reclining feature and maximum rearward positioning for added legroom [The third row of seats available in the MKT retail version has been permanently removed from the livery version].
• Seating for four passengers; one in front seat next to chauffeur and three in second row [One operator who is already using a 2010 MKT (retail version) in her fleet told the forum the rear seat comfortably accommodates three passengers].
• Upright seating position for easier entry and exit
• Rear center console for passenger controls
• Vista glass roof with retractable cover to allow for upward passenger viewing [does not diminish headroom]
• Puddle lamps on rear doors
• Map and newspaper pockets on the back of the front seats
• Vanity mirrors in the headliner with integrated task light
• Continuous rear floor mat for both footwells
— Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine