Lincoln MKZ: Is it a car, or a hotel?

2013 Lincoln MKZ side viewLincoln recently unveiled the new MKZ, a luxury sedan based on the 2013 Ford Fusion, but the company seems less interested in selling the car than selling a concierge service. According to Lincoln, what really sets the MKZ apart from other luxury cars is the way its customers are treated.

According to Lincoln, many of its customers do a lot of online shopping (no surprise there), so the company decided to focus on its website. A 24/7 “Online Concierge” will be staffed by real people will take some of the clicking and scrolling out of shopping for a car online. Lincoln is also equipping its dealers with iPads, so they can configure models and search inventory with an app.

It seems like Lincoln wants to erase the stigma of the greasy car salesman from its dealers. Ford’s upscale brand is retraining its dealers in a “Lincoln Academy” designed by Les Clefs D’or, the international hotel concierge association. In a slightly creepy touch, Lincoln also talked about installing RFID tags on its cars, so dealers can be ready to greet the owners when they show up for an oil change.

Solicitous service may be enough to woo some buyers away from their BMWs, but Lincoln is a car company, not a hotel. What about the MKZ? Styling wise, Lincoln is off to a decent start. The grille, which Lincoln Design Director Max Wolf says was inspired by an eagle’s wings, gives the car more presence than the last MKZ. It also sports a retractable glass roof panel.2013 Lincoln MKZ interior

MKZ buyers will have the choice of a 3.7-liter V6 making 300 horsepower, or a 2.0-liter EcoBoost I4, which puts out 240 hp. Both are available with front or all-wheel drive. The front-wheel drive hybrid also returns, boasting a combined 188 horsepower. Lincoln said the 2013

MKZ was designed by a dedicated team in Lincoln’s own design studio, but it still shares its basic structure with the 2013 Ford Fusion. The Fusion is supposed to be pretty sporty, but it’s hard to say whether it will be sporty enough for the luxury segment. Good handling is important when a car is competing against BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

In-car technology is also important. Like the 2012 MKZ, the 2013 will get SYNC with MyLincoln Touch, Lincoln’s version of MyFord Touch. The system provides a wide range of connectivity options, and can be controlled through voice commands or a touch screen. MyFord/MyLincoln Touch wasn’t very popular at launch, but it just went through a major revamp.

If Lincoln is going to stand out as a luxury brand, it needs to do more than nail chrome grilles to Fords. Improving customer service will probably help Lincoln’s image, but the brand needs to sell some cars before it can pamper customers.