Lincoln rechristened Lincoln Motor Company: Will anyone care?

2013 Lincoln MKZ profile viewAs part of a new advertising campaign, Ford’s Lincoln luxury division will henceforth be known as the Lincoln Motor Company. The new campaign seeks to differentiate Lincoln from its parent company’s mainstream models, and to remind potential buyers of the brand’s provenance. Still, with a lineup that is entirely Ford-based, how much can this rebranding accomplish?

The name change is a more significant nod toward independence than one might think. Lincoln was created by Henry M. Leland (founder of Cadillac) in 1920, and survived on its own for two years before it was bought by Ford in 1922. The company’s original name? You guessed it: Lincoln Motor Company.

“This is about moving forward by looking back,” the narrator of Lincoln’s new commercial says, and the brand has plenty to look back on. One spot juxtaposes the 2013 MKZ with classic Lincolns, including 1940, 1956, and 1961 Continentals. There’s also a cameo by President Abraham Lincoln (talk about impressive history).

“The campaign captures the founding principles of the company and brings them forward to a new generation of progressive luxury buyers,” Lincoln’s press release said. Indeed, another ad shows classic Lincolns interspersed with shots of designers working on a clay model MKZ, and some skydiving, something Honest Abe probably wouldn’t have partaken in.

Lincoln definitely needs to prove that it is a legitimate luxury brand, and not a Ford trim level, but its ad department might writing checks its engineers can’t cash. The new MKZ is a good car but, like every other current Lincoln, it’s a restyled Ford model (in this case, the Fusion) with some posh options.

Lincolns also use the same engines and transmissions as the Ford models they’re based on, and come with the same infotainment system (rebranded MyLincoln Touch).

This might take some of the brand’s luster away, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem for sales. Lexus’ two bestsellers are the ES sedan and RX crossover, which are based on the Toyota Camry and Highlander, respectively.

However, Lincoln is being squeezed from both directions. Its cars cost nearly as much as the competition from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which offer a more premium experience. At the same time, certain Ford models offer similar levels of equipment to their Lincoln counterparts.

Lincoln also lacks a brand-specific model, like the Lexus IS, GS, or LS, to lure buyers away from its parent’s showrooms. Rumors are going around about a rear-wheel drive Lincoln based on the 2015 Mustang, but so far they are just rumors.

Through November 2012, Lincoln sold a total of 74,766 cars. Lexus sold 213,559 cars, and BMW sold 303,728. Maybe Abe Lincoln should get a speaking part in Lincoln Motor Company’s next ad.