Why Buy a Lincoln?Buying Guides • Advice • Reviews
A luxury vehicle division of the Ford Motor Company, Lincoln Motors has long been recognized as a distinctive brand name. Ever since its founding in 1917 as a small company producing aircraft engine parts, Lincoln has focused on high-quality and premium craftsmanship. Today, Lincoln Motors is part of Ford's Premier Auto Group and continues to manufacture vehicle products that are considered to be segment benchmarks.
As is often the case in the automotive industry, Lincoln has suffered the ups-and-downs of recession, bankruptcy, and the demands of an ever-changing society. However, unlike many of its competitors, Lincoln has a proven record of survival. Starting with its prototype automobile at the conclusion of World War I, a long line of successful models have been produced, with the currently manufactured MKS and MKZ sedans and luxury SUVs carrying on the tradition of fine-quality vehicles.
1) 1917-1940: The Company's Beginnings
Henry Leland was a senior manager at General Motors and oversaw the production of vehicles at the newly formed Cadillac division. Leland and his son Wilfred had their own ideas about how to mass-produce engine parts, and they decided to form their very own parts company. Henry named his company Lincoln in honor of one of his greatest heroes, Abraham Lincoln.
At the conclusion of World War I, Leland began to design custom automobiles, the first of which would become the forerunner of the first brand model, the L-series. However, Leland encountered financial troubles and eventually sold his company to Ford in 1922. Ford continued to produce the L-series for several years but also introduced four-door sedans with a revolutionary new engine block styling. The buying public accepted the new designs with satisfaction, mostly because of the high-quality materials and quiet ride with virtually no engine vibration.
2) 1940-1959: Lincoln Division And Lincoln-Mercury
Even before World War II, Ford had introduced the prototype of what would become its most famous model, the Continental. In 1940, Lincoln became a full-fledged division of its parent company, and production was stepped up on variations of this new model. Its European styling and distinctive running boards quickly made it a favorite among consumers.
Mercury was another fledgling division of the Ford Motor Company at this time. In 1945, Mercury and Lincoln divisions merged, and the company focused primarily on the manufacturing of two models. The Continental was redesigned, and the popular Zephyr was also upgraded. Both of these models were discontinued in 1949, replaced by the EL-series and Cosmopolitan. These were the first Lincoln models that did not come with an oversized V-12 engine.
The Continental was brought back to life in 1956, and one of the popular variants became known as the Mark II. This model would eventually evolve into its own model line, one which would continue for more than 40 years.
3) 1960-1979: An Expanding Vehicle Lineup
During the 1960s, Lincoln expanded its Continental line to include the next generations of the Mark series. In addition, the company developed a new-generation Continental that was based on some of the custom designs manufactured especially for the U.S. Government vehicle fleet.
In 1968, Lincoln introduced a redesigned Continental Mark III as a direct competitor to the Cadillac El Dorado. The success of this innovative model led to even more design changes throughout the 1970s. A variant of the Mark III was developed and introduced as the Continental Town Car, and this model would soon become the benchmark by which other American luxury cars were measured.
4) 1980-1998: The Company Downsizes
In the 1980s, smaller cars with incredibly better fuel economy were much in demand. Lincoln suffered through several years of poor sales, the result being a reorganization of the entire division. The Continental and Mark series were temporarily discontinued, and taking their place was the Town Car. This proved to be a major mistake on the company's part, chiefly because the buying public was not particularly interested in a very large two-door sedan. The Continental and Mark series was revived, and the Town Car was sold as a singular style, with the Coupe option discontinued permanently.
The Mark series continued on through the production of the Mark VIII, this last in the series being discontinued in 1998. The Town Car and Continental would survive into the 21st century, but major design changes were ongoing through the 1990s.
5) 1999-Present: New Century, New Models
In 1998, Lincoln became part of the Ford Premier Auto Group. Ford owned Jaguar and Volvo, and this newly constructed auto group allowed the company to manufacture similar, competing designs that offered an alternative to their foreign counterparts.
The Continental nameplate was permanently discontinued in 2002, and the Town Car went out of production in 2011. Today, the company manufactures the MKS and MKZ sedans, and the MKX and Navigator SUVs. Lincoln models are available in 12 countries - including the United States - as well as in most of the U.S.-owned territories.
Although victimized by low sales due to recessions and changing industry standards, Lincoln has nonetheless been viewed throughout its history as a successful innovative auto division. It is likely that Lincoln will survive at least another few decades, offering discriminating buyers a choice of premium-quality sedans and SUVs at prices that are competitive with other high-end automakers.