Continuing my scant coverage of the most interesting Detroit Auto Show in years……
I’ve always felt that the interior of a car was crucial to its success – it’s where you spend all of your time, after all. So many car companies have been guilty of spending a disproportionate amount of time/money chasing an exciting exterior, leaving people with a dowdy interior as a result. (The C3 Corvette Stingray is perhaps the worst offender when it comes to exterior/interior divergence).
I’ve seen a few fantastic interior photos from the 2013 Detroit show. Shots that really piqued my interest in cars that I wouldn’t normally give a second glance to based on the exterior or the badge.
The first is the 4-series BMW interior. I’m not a fan of BMWs in general and the interiors have never grabbed me, but this makes me want to dive in to a pool of chocolate and bathe for hours. There’s some genuine warmth here.
OK, it’s a concept so the chances of it looking like this are only slight, but it’s a concept that looks very close to production-ready.
The next one is the interior of the Honda/Acura NSX Concept. Honda are renowned for having show cars that don’t change much at all for production. That’s good news for any potential NSX owners out there because this interior is spectacular in design, simplicity and execution.
The final one I’d like to point out is the Lincoln MKC concept interior. This one’s the most dubious in terms of whether or not it’ll see production an a form that’s close to the show car, but it’s very nice indeed.
I’m not a big fan of fat central command centers so that’s not a favourite element, but the rest of the interior looks very nicely executed.
The MKC is actually a pretty important model for Lincoln, a brand that was left largely by the wayside while Ford concentrated on its short-lived Premier Auto Group. Now that Volvo and JLR have been sold off to others, Ford are trying to revive Lincoln as an upmarket brand in the US.
I got an email last week from a reader named Liari drawing my attention to Lincoln and the brand’s new MKZ sedan. Liari makes a point that’s not too dissimilar to one of Ford’s problems here in Australia.
First, the car…..
Ford is trying to relaunch Lincoln, which is critical for them for future profitability, and the MKZ is the first out of the gate. In a way, they are “finding their own road” by declaring from the outset that they’re not aiming to out BMW BMW, with Nürburgring hammering vehicles, in the fashion of Cadillac, Audi, and now Lexus. They want to find a blend of elegant simplicity, comfort, and sport with good fuel efficiency. Do those brand values sound familiar? Thus, the MKZ and its hybrid model with 45 MPG.
I think there’s a lot here for Saab fans to admire, and I think the car’s lines in person reminds me a lot of the late and too soon gone Saab 9-5 (while the interior has melted Volvo overtones). Considering that a 45 MPG hybrid stuffed to the gills with every luxury feature known to man (including the impressive panoramic sliding roof) rings in at $5000-6000 LESS than a Saab 9-5 did in 2010 with it’s sunroof deficiency, I think this is an enormous value calling out to Saab fans… Those who can swallow the brand, at least.
I’ve not had any experience with Lincoln whatsoever but I took a look at the Lincoln website after getting this email and I have to say, it does look like a lot of bang for the buck. The styling’s a personal matter, of course, but in terms of equipment it’s a decent package.
To the problem, then…..
What I think makes this interesting to YOU are the reviews that the vehicle has been getting. More interesting has been the questions those review prompt about what defines a luxury car. These are questions that Saab had in its recent past and that NEVS and all luxury cars makers will have in the future.
The reviews, to my eyes, read amazingly like prior Saab reviews. In fact, substitute “Saab 9-5” in for “Lincoln MKZ” into the text, and it could be 2010 all over again. From fretting over interior plastics, to inconsistent reviews of its seats (from “best ever” to “too firm”), to angst over platform sharing, to it being overpriced for its segment (despite a history of better prices at dealers than magazine quoted MSRP, just like Saab). Lincoln too seems to suffer from some of the same self inflicted wounds that Saab had as well. Despite early administrative insistence that they were aiming at the Lexus ES’s, Hyundai Azeras, Buick Regals, and Toyota Avalons of the world, some of the Lincoln PR grunts did not get the memo and suggested the Audi A6, BMW 5, and CTS were rivals. The media latched onto that and those direct comparisons in reviews were not kind.
The key question Liari asks is what defines luxury? and can/does anyone rely on car magazines to provide an objective evaluation?
I mentioned Ford Australia. The Ford Falcon, their large sedan here, has suffered dwindling sales for years and whilst it was once a best seller (moving around 85,000 units a year here at one stage), the Falcon wasn’t even in the Top 20 sellers in 2012.
Ford released a turbocharged 4-cylinder version of the Falcon last year, hoping that that would appeal to those buyers concerned with the price of petrol. The Ecoboost Falcon has been praised in review after review and yet during the model’s first three months on the market, Ford sold just 53 of them to provate buyers (and three times as many to Ford employees).
I guess this all goes to the mission that Ford will have with Lincoln. The MKZ looks like a very nice sedan and this new MKC SUV might be even more important given the growth in the segment. The big question is whether buyers and the motoring press will take the brand for what it is.
No matter how fine the car is, Australians just don’t seem to want a 4-cylinder Falcon. I hope Ford has more success with Lincoln because the new models look pretty nice and the world needs more automotive variety, not less.