Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] CEO Mark Fields has some pretty big shoes to fill. He replaces Alan Mulally, who helped Ford successfully navigate 2008’s financial crisis as well as implement the One Ford strategy calling for fewer models and factories around the globe. To make his mark (no pun intended), Fields has set himself the challenge of turning around Lincoln, something Mulally never really pursued. In fact, the former Ford boss is said to have even suggested killing the brand along with Mercury.
Reuters has now come out with a report claiming Fields has been given the approval of Ford chairman Bill Ford to spend at least $5 billion on Lincoln over the next five years. This is up from a $2.5 billion amount Ford bosses previously said they would spend on Lincoln over the same period. The information was revealed by insiders who said much of the investment is earmarked for a highly modular platform codenamed D6.
The D6 platform, whose development is being led by Lincoln’s new chief Kumar Galhotra, is said to be capable of front-, rear- and all-wheel-drive applications, which would make it relatively unique among major automaker vehicle platforms. It’s likely the D6 is more of a toolkit than a conventional platform, similar to the Volkswagen Group's MQB design.
The first D6-based vehicles are expected to be redesigned versions of the MKZ and MKT, due in 2019. Eventually most of Lincoln’s lineup, both sedans and SUVs, will be based on this platform. Interestingly, the platform won’t be unique to Lincoln, as new Fords will also use it. One possibility is the next-generation Ford Explorer, which is rumored to be receiving a new rear-wheel-drive platform.
Of course, five years is a very long time in the automotive world, and for Lincoln it means the existing fleet will be largely unchanged for the next several years. There are some major introductions planned, however. A new MKX arrives next spring and will be followed in the spring of 2016 by a replacement for the MKS. Both will use a stretched version of the platform found in the current MKZ. Contrary to some reports, the MKS replacement will be sold in the U.S., but only in standard size. A long-wheelbase base version will be marketed exclusively in China.
Two other Lincolns are confirmed to arrive before the new D6-based vehicles start coming on the scene. One of these will be an all-new Navigator arriving in the fall of 2017. It will share its platform with the latest F-150 pickup truck and like the Ford will receive a lightweight aluminum body. It’s not clear what the other model will be but the insiders said it could be a redesign of the MKC, due in the fall of 2018.
Mark Fields (left) and Alan Mulally
"It's really important for us to have a relevant and vibrant luxury brand," Fields told Reuters, when asked about his plans for Lincoln. "You need to make the investment and build this brand over time."
Ford’s current goal for Lincoln is to triple sales to around 300,000 units by 2020. Most of that growth is expected to come from China where the Lincoln brand has just been launched.