Lincoln Counting on New Black Label to Draw New Buyers

Exclusive interiors, upscale “experience” targeting elite motorists.

by on Nov.17, 2014

Lincoln's new Black Label Series kicks off with the MKC as well as the MKZ for 2015.

Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln brand is trying a new approach to attract the sort of upscale opinion leaders that can help put the struggling luxury marque back on track.

The new Lincoln Black Label “experience” is designed to offer potential buyers a blend of exclusive vehicle interiors and a more personalized ownership experience that will include access to exclusive restaurants, unlimited car washes and an annual vehicle detailing.

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The launch of the brand-within-a-brand comes as Lincoln makes its first serious push to go global, with the first of its new dealerships opening in China this month. Black Label will debut in the U.S. on two of Lincoln’s newest models, the MKC compact crossover and the MKZ sedan, noted Group Marketing Manager Andrew Frick, adding that “Black Label will be (added) on every new Lincoln that comes out over the next few years.”

Luxury makers are facing something of a conundrum these days. Traditional upscale cues, such as leather and wood, have become increasingly commonplace in mainstream products, and the advanced technologies that debut on a luxury car one year may show up in the mass-market the next. So, high-line brands have been putting an increasing focus on delivering a more exclusive experience that can include unique services, as well as customized vehicle details.

The new Lincoln MKZ Black Label.

With Black Label, Lincoln will offer four distinct interior packages – “themes,” is its preferred term. With names like “Indulgence,” “Oasis,” “Center Stage,” and “Modern Heritage,” they target very different buyer groups, from extroverts who love flashy colors and materials, to those more reserved who want a car that provides a comfortable refuge.

All four themes opt for more premium woods, leather, suede and other materials. Even seemingly insignificant details can get the Black Label touch, such as the switch plates that surround the vehicles’ power seat controls.

Lincoln likes to describe Black Label designs as “customized,” but they actually use pre-selected material and color choices. Company officials compare the approach to using a personal shopper at a high-line retailer like Neiman Marcus.

The maker is putting equal emphasis on the experiential side of Black Label, starting with a special “club” room where shoppers can meet with specially trained dealer staff and check out their options.

Among other things, “An owner will have access to some very unique restaurants around the country,” explained Black Label Operations Manager Paul Bucek. The restaurants are even creating special Black Label menus.

Among the other “suite of privileges” will be free car washes and an annual vehicle detailing.

The services will be available for four years after purchase – and Lincoln is considering whether to offer an extension for owners who keep their Black Label models longer.

Lincoln's new Black Label interior gives buyers several upscale choices for their new vehicles.

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The Black Label versions of the Lincoln MKC and MKZ models will carry a $5,995 premium over standard issue versions of the crossover and sedan. The 2015 MKC currently starts at around $31,000 and runs to the mid-$40,000 range fully loaded.

The MKC and MKZ are the brand’s current base models, and Lincoln officials say the price tag for Black Label will likely be higher on other models to come.

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Lincoln will officially announce the launch of Black Label at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week. California is one of six states where the concept will debut – with 32 dealerships currently signed up. The program will start rolling out nationally a year later.

Lincoln expects about 5% of its buyers to opt for Black Label models. But it also expects them to be the sort of opinion leaders who will help spread the word about the brand – and the changes it is undergoing.

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Once vying for leadership in the U.S. luxury market with Detroit rival Cadillac, Lincoln is today a struggling, second-tier brand. But new models like the MKZ and MKC have begun to give it some momentum – Frick noting U.S. sales were up 15% for the first 10 months of 2014, about double the pace of the overall luxury segment.

Meanwhile, it is just getting its distribution channel into operation in China – which is expected to become the world’s largest luxury market in the next year or two. Lincoln planners believe they can significantly boost overall sales with that move. And that, in turn, will help the brand justify adding more product.

Lincoln has said it would add four new models between 2013 and 2016, but that’s well behind the product pace at key rivals. Company insiders reveal that there are yet more new Lincoln products under development, though the brand is not yet ready to release details.

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4 Responses to “Lincoln Counting on New Black Label to Draw New Buyers”

  1. Jorge says:

    IME those special versions or “labels” where consumers are willing to pay a premium for exclusivity tend to apply to models that are perceived as unique or exotic, not your everyday models.

  2. nobsartist says:

    What a joke. I am embarrassed when I have to park next to that crap. Anyone that thinks driving a ‘re-badged Mazda 6 is “luxury” is as clueless as the dolts that came up with this “black label” bs.
    Hey Mabel, black label.
    It’s great that Lincoln is bringing back the 50′s. It goes great with those modern day edsels horbury came up with.

  3. veh says:

    Lincoln ought to make it a goal to treat ALL customers to an exemplary dealer experience. This does not cut it

    The restaurant idea is interesting, I’m looking forward to see just what kind of restaurants they work with. Chains like Capital Grille?

  4. fremon says:

    Give me a product worth owning. How can LMC compete on 3 products? Don’t you think customers can see through this? Let’s see: If I buy up to Johnny Walker Black Label I know I’m getting something just a little bit better. I can taste it. If I’m to buy into LMC’s premise they need to be able to compete toe-to-toe w/ Cadillac, and Luxury class vehicles from Asia and Europe. I don’t think they are there yet.