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FEBRUARY 2012 LCT MAGAZINE COVER STORY: Lincoln culminates a long, intense journey this month as it finally signs off on the livery and limousine model designed to move the industry forward for many years to come.
Since announcing the 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car in September 2010 and unveiling a concept model at the International LCT Show on Feb. 14, 2011, the leading maker of America’s limousine vehicles has fine-tuned the vehicle with upgrades and taken far more initial orders from operators than expected. Operators can see and order the MKT Town Car during the International LCT Show Feb. 13-15 in Las Vegas. Full production is scheduled to start at its Oakville, Ontario plant in late February, shortly after the Show concludes.
“From the initial announcement to various shows we’ve been going to, the acceptance of the MKT Town Car has been growing significantly,” says Gerry Koss, Ford Fleet marketing manager. “Our objective was to meet and exceed all the elements of the Lincoln Town Car Executive L in this vehicle, and develop an even better product.”
As of publication time, the new vehicles scheduled to be on display at the Show include three MKT Town Cars and five MKT stretch limousines through selected QVM coachbuilders. The MKTs that Ford Fleet exhibited in the past were prototypes off the 2010 MKT chassis, whereas the MKT Town Car at the 2012 International LCT Show is a near-production version unit. “We built these in the last two months,” says Jim Murray, QVM supervisor. The first MKT Town Cars will be delivered to dealerships in mid-March and immediately into the hands of operators who will put them into service, Murray says.
The most noticeable changes to the MKT Town Car include the My Lincoln Touch technology system, a new center console stack, a refined grille, and unique wheels and tires, Murray says. Engineers also have enhanced minor components to further harmonize the look of the interior, such as the carpet, wood graining, and interior color schemes, he says.
Lincoln Limousine & Livery Vehicles does not disclose the total number of running orders or anticipated production volumes. But the Ford team claims interest and response so far belies the initial hesitation and criticism of the MKT Town Car among some operators. “Right now we are very, very pleased with the status of orders having been placed,” Koss says. “Reaction has been positive. We anticipated that operators would wait to place orders until after seeing the near production models at the Show so they are coming in earlier than expected.”
In addition to opening the order bank for the Lincoln MKT Town Car, pricing also has been released. Overall, the MSRP on the 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car will be less than a 4% increase compared to the MSRP of the 2011 Lincoln Town Car Executive L. That minimal price increase includes new features such as AWD, which is standard on the MKT livery model. The final transaction price is established between the selling dealer and the purchaser, Koss says.
The MKT Town Car offers a 3.7 liter, V-6 AWD powertrain with an estimated 300 horsepower. Ford Fleet should be releasing more detailed specs and “advertisable numbers” around the time of the International LCT Show Feb. 13-15. Exact fuel economy figures also are not available yet since the EPA has to evaluate all test results and officially confirm final figures, Murray says.
Anticipating a Lincoln leader
Final production figures, however, will depend on industry demand as the economy recovers, Koss says. “The bottom line is we’ve been market leaders in the industry for years. Our objective is to continue our leadership position in the future. We have sufficient capacity to meet industry demand.”
For the MKT Town Car stretch limousines, which will be built in 80-inch and 120-inch versions, Ford Fleet plans to offer the chassis to the same group of QVM coachbuilders as before. The manufacturer will re-certify all of the coachbuilders for the MKT Town Car once Job 1 vehicles are being delivered to dealerships. QVM manufacturers already have pre-production versions of the MKT Town Car that they can use to test and refine their stretching processes.
Lincoln’s listening tour
The conception, design and evolution of the MKT Town Car resulted from an exhaustive process over several years that brought together input from clients, dealers, operators, chauffeurs and industry vendors, Koss says.
“The MKT was developed based on the voice of the customer,” Koss says. “We did market research based on the person sitting in the second row. We interfaced with drivers, operators, and owners. The end-user customers wanted a comfortable environment and the new model enables us to bring new technology and features that we couldn’t do with the Executive L.”
Koss emphasizes that the MKT Town Car is a uniquely designed and designated livery vehicle. “This vehicle is not a retail unit that has been rebadged or just made to look pretty as a livery vehicle. This vehicle was engineered for the industry. It had very strong support from senior management for development. The engineering team that worked on this was extensive in terms of making sure that this vehicle was going to be engineered and designed to meet the needs of the industry,” he says, citing detailed attention to the MKT Town Car’s suspension, chassis, engine tuning, reliability and durability for the intense daily use required by chauffeured transportation operators. “This was not thrown together. We spent time engineering and testing the subsystem similar to what was done for our police vehicles – an industry with similar requirements for reliability and durability. Additionally, we are continuing our 4-year/150,000-mile Extended Service Plan on both the livery and limousine models.”
What makes the MKT Town Car an ideal chauffeured vehicle are its ingress and egress, a higher roof, and command seating, Koss says. “It is much easier to get in and out of than the Executive L. In our research, the MKT exceeded customer expectations and was rated the top choice.”
Engineers and market researchers asked research participants, “If you could make changes to a product, what would you want to change to better satisfy your customer?” Koss recalls. “One of the things in our research that was clear with the end user was that it is more challenging to get into a sedan versus the ease of a crossover.”
One fact about the MKT Town Car not widely known in the chauffeured transportation industry is that Ford Fleet initially considered and market-tested sedan, SUV, and CUV vehicle model concepts as possible successors to the Lincoln Town Car Executive L, Koss says. The MKT crossover model was selected because most research participants deemed it the best suited for the chauffeured transportation industry.
Lincoln held six research and testing events around the nation starting in 2009 and extending for a 12-month period into 2010. “We went back and brought people to Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., to get it on the right track and ask them, ‘Will this work for you?’” Koss says.
The Dearborn meetings with engineers drew input from the Ford Fleet limousine/livery advisory panel and key stakeholders in the chauffeured transportation industry.
“A lot of things went into the car that you would never see or know about it,” Murray says. One improvement incorporated during the design process based on industry feedback was the 18-inch tires and wheels that are not featured on the retail version, he says. Citing another example, Murray says designers also included lower-cost replacement headlamps so operators would not have to spend as much money on replacing them.
“While the exterior appearance of the MKT Town Car is similar to the retail product, if you take off the shell virtually everything else on it has been retouched and redesigned in some way to meet the needs of this industry,” Koss says.
KEY FACTS: 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car
More information: www.fleet.ford.com/limo
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