Fortunately for Lincoln, Ford (NYSE: F ) has been on such a tear this year that the stumbles in its luxury brand have been largely overlooked – for now. That won't always be the case, however. After the great recession, poor executive decisions, and bankruptcies forced upon General Motors (NYSE: GM ) and Chrysler, Ford opted to slash all of its global brands except its namesake Blue Oval and Lincoln.
Ford's need for its luxury line can't be understated; it's extremely important as high-margin luxury customers have few valid options at Ford/Lincoln dealerships and may opt to leave for a competitor. Ford has a plan to revive its luxury brand, and its resurgence has begun. Here's a look at numbers released Tuesday.
Lincoln the "has-been"
It's hard to believe that 15 years ago Lincoln was actually the top-selling U.S. luxury brand with its Navigator one of the nation's most popular luxury rides. Unfortunately it's been a long fall from the top, and this year Lincoln's sales through June total 38,288, which is down 8.8% from last year, a decline due mainly to the three-month delay in MKZ sales.
To put Lincoln's nearly 40,000 in sales year to date in perspective, consider that it represents just 3% of Ford's entire company sales. Ford's Focus, Fusion, and Escape sold more than three times Lincoln's total sales individually. Even uglier, the F-Series has already sold nine times the amount of Lincoln's entire brand this year.
I suppose that isn't fair, comparing the mass-produced vehicles of Ford's Blue Oval brand to its luxury brand. But it does put in perspective how far it has to go to become relevant again – which is one of Ford's top priorities.
If you want to compare apples to apples, take a look at GM's Cadillac brand which is enjoying a 14.9% sales increase in June, assisting the luxury brand's fastest growth since the disco days of 1976. GM delivered over 83,679 Cadillac's this year for a 33.2% gain, compared to Lincoln's 38,288 as previously mentioned.
Ford investors, fear not: Lincoln's resurgence is slightly behind Cadillac's – similar to how GM's entire resurgence is years behind Ford's. We're seeing a strong uptick in MKZ sales – Lincoln's flagship vehicle – this quarter representing its best quarterly performance ever.
The MKZ is the first of multiple vehicle redesigns or launches that will, Ford hopes, bump Lincoln's lineup back to relevancy. Keep in mind that these Lincoln sales don't cannibalize from typical Ford consumers, so any sales are purely incremental to Ford's top and bottom lines.
As Ford continues to focus on the most popular segments, consumers are anticipating the arrival of the MKC Crossover which has been met with very positive reviews.
If Ford can replicate its sales success from the Escape to the MKC, it will be a huge one-two punch for Lincoln as it fights to become relevant in the luxury market. After the MKC debut the details for new Lincoln products get a little hazy, but Ford plans to introduce a couple more vehicles. In addition to introducing new vehicles into the U.S. market, Ford plans to take its luxury line overseas as soon as 2014 to claim its piece of China's booming luxury-segment pie.
This is an exciting and tense time for Ford investors – a lot of important issues are up in the air. By 2015 Ford could have as many as three huge catalysts. There could be a return to profitability in Europe, which will reverse an expected $2 billion loss this year in bottom-line profits – an astronomical amount. Ford could also experience a revival in its Lincoln luxury line which will quickly add incremental sales revenue and profits – at better margins to boot. Ford also expects to introduce 15 new models into China by 2015 and double its market share, a move that would be worth billions.
If all three of these catalysts go positive for Ford, as is expected, we could be witnessing one of the markets best investments over the next two to three years – definitely worth another look for your portfolio.
China is already the world's largest auto market – and it's set to grow even bigger in coming years. A recent Motley Fool report, "2 Automakers to Buy for a Surging Chinese Market", names two global giants poised to reap big gains that could drive big rewards for investors. You can read this report right now for free – just click here for instant access.