The uphill battle has been made even tougher by a series of delays that kept the cars out of dealerships, potentially wasting an expensive early 2013 advertising campaign that effectively raised awareness of the relaunch.
In the first two months of 2013, Lincoln sales were down 25 percent, according to the Detroit News. That ground can be made up, but not easily. Sales have improved and the cars are finally arriving in dealerships in large numbers.
Company executives acknowledged the difficulty of relaunching the defunct brand, once the choice of presidents and celebrities, now the go-to ride for livery cab drivers, well before the delays.
They said it's a challenge, one that will take years, and that the MKZ is just the first step (three new cars should debut in the next three years).
Lincoln director of global marketing Matt VanDyke framed the relaunch as especially challenging. " We really have lost a whole generation of the luxury market. We have to acknowledge that head-on," VanDyke told The Detroit Times, adding that Lincoln is not on many buyers' "radar screens."
We've seen the MKZ; it's a good-looking car. But the already formidable challenge of coming back from the near-dead is about to get even tougher.
The New York Auto Show this week will see the birth of the new Audi A3, Cadillac CTS, and Mercedes CLA45 AMG. Even Buick, another lagging luxury brand, has a new performance sedan that may actually appeal to young shoppers.
Those cars won't hit dealerships for a while, so Lincoln does not have to worry about them just yet.
But the delays in getting the MKZs to dealers could prove fatal, squandering public interest in the brand at a crucial moment.
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