Top Dealer Reports Opening Surge In Lincoln MKT Orders

Posted on December 7, 2011

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Acton Fleet Sales' Bill Cunningham is so thrilled with initial MKT Town Car sales, he'll even stand next to one in the rain on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011.
Acton Fleet Sales' Bill Cunningham is so thrilled with initial MKT Town Car sales, he'll even stand next to one in the rain on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011.

ACTON, Mass. — For Acton Lincoln, a rosy holiday sales season of sorts began on Dec. 5.

Since that “Black Monday” when Lincoln officially opened its order bank for the 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car, general manager Bill Cunningham of Acton Fleet Sales took orders from operators and coachbuilders for 240 livery MKTs and counting. He projects to have tallied more than 300 by close of business Friday. About 20 chauffeured transportation companies had placed orders by Tuesday, along with most of the major coachbuilders, Cunningham said.

As Cunningham told LCT: “We sold more Lincoln MKT Town Cars this week than Ford sold of the MKT nationally for all of November.”

Acton Fleet Sales, the largest Lincoln livery dealer in the U.S., is a major supplier of Lincoln vehicles on behalf of Ford Fleet Limousine & Livery Vehicles to the Boston, New York and New England corridor, considered the most heavily concentrated service region for the chauffeured transportation industry and where the largest operations in the U.S. are headquartered.

The wave of orders for the 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car appears to contradict industry grapevine chatter and criticism about the cross-over styled MKT being an unacceptable successor to the Lincoln Town Car Executive L sedan. Since Lincoln announced the MKT Town Car in October 2010, many operators have expressed fears and reservations about the MKT’s unconventional body style, and worried it might not carry forward the luxury image established by the venerable Lincoln Town Car Executive L. Some of the online comments about the MKT attached to automotive media reports have been rather hostile and dismissive.

Several weeks ago, LCT spoke with a longtime coachbuilder on a trade show floor in Atlantic City, N.J. who said he has observed similar industry hysteria about a vehicle transition three times before. In each case when Lincoln redesigned and reshaped the Town Car — 1989-90; 1997-98; and in the early 2000s — many operators at first deemed the reworked model unacceptable and predicted the demise of the Town Car. It never happened, with Lincoln remaining the dominant seller of luxury livery sedans.

Reality checks
The sales momentum and enthusiasm that Cunningham observed this week, along with reports from two other key national Lincoln livery dealers, indicate some new dynamics in the limousine marketplace could be emerging that would puncture industry misperceptions, or myths, that surround the MKT. What is actually happening. . .

  1. In choosing a successor vehicle to the Town Car, the “little guys” are not waiting to see what the “big guys” are doing;
  2. The cross-over (CUV) styling of the MKT seems to be going over better than expected among operators, especially since it facilitates more cargo space, headroom, all-wheel drive, and technological access.
  3. Lackluster national sales figures for the retail version of the MKT do not accurately predict how the livery version will sell.

“This is a great start for us on a brand new car,” Cunningham said. “We have been getting feedback from operators that have been waiting for price, then working up orders.”

However, Cunningham quickly added that the MKT still needs “to prove itself to the industry.”

Value emphasis
Athough Ford Fleet Limousine & Livery Vehicles has not officially released any prices yet on the 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car, Cunningham has priced his Lincoln MKT Town Cars at $43,199 each. [The MSRP on a retail Lincoln MKT is $50,945]. A 2011 Lincoln Town Car Executive L at Acton sells for $41,388. [All prices are exclusive of taxes, license fees, and other routine add-on charges].

With the high volume of orders taken, Cunningham has honed his sales pitch on the MKT vs. the Executive L: “For about $2,000 more, you get a two-year newer car since it’s an early 2013 model, AWD technology instead of rear wheel, in-dash navigation, remote start, SYNC, MyTouch, Wi-Fi, unique livery seating, and rear seat controls. This is packed with features. There is more cargo room and appears to have more headroom. Because it’s two years newer, it is one hell of a bargain.”

Most of the operators ordering the MKT run small to medium-sized fleets, Cunningham said. “It’s not the big guys coming out of the box first; it’s the small to mid-size operators doing this who see the opportunity to flip their entire fleet because the size of the fleet is smaller and they have an advantage over big companies who must think twice about transitioning their fleet over to a new car,” he said. “When it’s a smaller operation, it’s a lot easier to do that.”

Cunningham also has noticed clients struggling over whether to buy the last remaining Town Cars or go ahead and order the MKT. Production on the MKT starts in February 2012 with the first deliveries to dealerships in March. Ford Motor Co. boosted production of the 2011 Lincoln Town Car Executive L this year to meet close-out demand from operators who want to keep the Town Cars in their fleets for at least another few years before choosing a replacement vehicle.

“One company in the Midwest wanted to buy 20 Town Cars but then decided to buy five Town Cars and 15 MKTs instead,” Cunningham said. “There is a lot of thought behind these purchases.”

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