Attendees of the 2016 New York International Auto Show were treated to a first look at Lincoln's new Navigator concept car. The unusual model probably had onlookers half-expecting the vehicle to set sails or take flight – anything but simply drive down the street.
According to Yahoo! Finance, the statement-making Lincoln Navigator concept took its inspiration from yachting. The model boasts large, graceful gullwing doors that sweep out from either side of the vehicle and a classy retro interior that features seaworthy teak detailing.
The reveal of the impressive vehicle follows a years-long effort by the Lincoln brand to revive its image and boost sales. The brand, owned by Ford, believes the new design, is just what consumers need – even if it is a little over-the-top.
"Gullwing doors are not at the top of [consumers] needs right now," said president of the Lincoln brand Kumar Galhotra in an interview with USA Today. "There are two reasons that we did this. One is that it's a concept. Concept (vehicles) offer great ways to explore ideas. The second is that the interior of the vehicle is very important … and this is a great way to showcase that interior."
Rehabbing the brand
The past several years have not been easy for Lincoln. According to Yahoo! Finance, the brand sold a miniscule 80,000 vehicles in 2014 – compared to around 250,000 a year in the early 1990s. Its most famous offering, the Lincoln Continental, had since retired, and its last remaining major player, the Lincoln Navigator, was a clunky SUV that cost a small fortune just to fill up, explained the source.
Ford was considering shuttering Lincoln's doors forever, but Mark Fields, who would later become Ford's CEO, talked the then-CEO out of it, feeling a renewed sense of hope in the brand's future.
Key to the brand's future were two things: a commitment to "quiet luxury" as the Lincoln mantra and Matthew McConaughey.
You've seen the commercials: A suave McConaughey drives a Lincoln around while muttering weird things. Sometimes he's en route to a fancy dinner party, sometimes he's randomly in the desert facing down a bull. No matter the setting, you can be sure he's going to say some strange stuff like:
"Sometimes you gotta go back to actually move forward." Or: "That's a big bull." Or even: "I just liked it."
What are you trying to say, Matthew?! The ads are odd and unconventional, that's for sure. But they certainly worked, despite of – or perhaps because of – their weirdness. After the premier of the ads, Lincoln had its strongest October sales since 2007, with sales up 25 percent, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
A wave of parodies followed suit, the most famous of which were a series of SNL skits starring Jim Carrey. According to THR, the skits led to a more than 100 percent increase in Lincoln brand visibility on social media.
Quiet luxury soars
The many, many parodies of the McConaughey ads aside, Lincoln's new image took flight. With lots of luxury vehicles on the market that emphasized engine power and other hard performance specs, Lincoln leadership wanted to appeal to wealthy consumers that didn't care for hefty horsepower or turbo-charged stats, explained Yahoo! Finance. "Quiet luxury" was what Lincoln wanted to represent, and it seems to be working.
"We made a very big commitment to Lincoln about three years ago, saying we want to turn Lincoln into a world-class luxury brand with a client experience to match," said current Ford CEO Mark in an interview with Business Insider, as reported by Yahoo! Finance. "And we've had a lot of success implementing that strategy. We grew our sales and our market share two years in a row. In the first couple of months of this year our sales are up 19%."
And the gullwing-boasting Lincoln Navigator is all about taking that quiet luxury to new heights. According to USA Today, the production version of the vehicle is slated to go on sale in 2017, which is exactly 20 years after the original Navigator was introduced to the world.
But you don't need to be a millionaire – or Matthew McConaughey – to drive a Lincoln. Head to NJ State Auto today to find a Lincoln that suits your wallet, and your needs.