PLYMOUTH, MI – Ford’s Lincoln brand, understanding its desperate need to make a mark in the luxury segment, will roll out its Black Label premium experience, which extends well beyond plush seats and fancy wheels, at select dealerships in six states starting next month.
Lincoln chose the 32 showrooms in California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Michigan based on their ability to convey the warmth, richness and exceptional personal service Black Label is intended to embody.
The six launch states were selected because they collectively represent 65% of the luxury vehicle market in the U.S. Five of the 32 stores are in Michigan, including four in metro Detroit and one near Grand Rapids. There are 909 Lincoln dealers in the U.S.
An extensive certification process is in place requiring Black Label showrooms to use premium materials for floors and paneling and to incorporate soft lighting and the right ambience, says Andrew Frick, Lincoln’s group marketing manager.
“Black Label is really the ultimate expression of what the Lincoln brand will stand for, in terms of our quality, design and our personal service,” Frick says.
Prospective customers on tight schedules can count on a personal visit from a Black Label representative anywhere within 30 miles (48 km) of a certified dealership.
Ahead of this week’s Los Angeles auto show, Lincoln announces the Black Label package will cost $5,995 and will be available first on the MKZ sedan and MKC CUV.
That price is in addition to top-level Reserve trim for those models. Reserve pricing ranges from $40,930 to $44,565 for MKC and from $40,455 to $43,575 for MKZ.
Each time a Lincoln vehicle is all-new, such as the next-generation Navigator now in the pipeline, a Black Label version will be offered.
The service includes upgraded materials, annual vehicle detailing, anytime car washes, 4-year/50,000-mile (80,465-km) extended premium service maintenance coverage and access to a no-cost rental when covered maintenance is performed.
Simple Process, With Membership Privileges
Lincoln conducted extensive consumer research and arrived at two important conclusions: Buying a luxury vehicle can be complicated and intimidating, and ownership of such a vehicle should reinforce an affluent lifestyle.
Frick says luxury customers aren’t simply car shopping but instead “want to be part of something a little bit bigger,” with membership privileges that extend to fine dining and weekend getaways.
On that front, Black Label offers the Culinary Collection, a curated list of 14 high-end restaurants in the six launch states. Noted chefs will provide an at-your-service dining experience, Lincoln says.
The automaker plans to extend Black Label nationwide by the end of 2015 as additional dealerships across the country achieve certification. Frick says there is no set goal for a specific number of Black Label showrooms.
In simplifying the purchase process, Frick says many customers don’t want to spend an entire afternoon selecting certain types of leather, carpet, wood, brightwork, wheels and exterior paint colors.
Instead, many buyers prefer design themes that are “well thought-out” and eliminate the aesthetic guesswork, he says. Limited choices are fine, as long as a prospective customer connects with one of them.
Engine and drivetrain options on Black Label vehicles are the same as for standard Lincolns.
But customers do have to decide among six exterior colors. There are six types of leather, five varieties of wood and five Alcantara microsuedes (for headliner and pillar trim) offered as part of four Black Label design themes. They are:
- Indulgence – marked by Truffle-colored Venetian leather designed to communicate the allure of chocolate. Leather will feature a “Linking-L” perforation pattern with black stitching. Ziricote wood, harvested in South America and often used on yachts and classical instruments, trims out the instrument panel and doors.
- Center Stage – inspired by theater arts and fashion, the jet black cabin is punctuated with Foxfire Red accent stitching on doors and seats. Venetian leather black seats feature “Diamond-L” perforation pattern. Lincoln recommends Onyx wood trim in MKZ and Black Stripe wood trim in MKC.
- Modern Heritage – a classic black-and-white color scheme with subtle crimson accents and “Diamond-L” perforation pattern on Vianca white Venetian leather seats and center console. Black Argento wood trim sets off instrument panel and doors.
- Oasis – to convey warmth and serenity of a spa in a harmonious interior. This 2-tone cabin employs natural, earthy hues with a dark instrument panel and cream-colored seats and center console. Matte-finish American Walnut Burl wood trim covers the instrument panel and doors.
The exclusive Venetian leather is supplied by Eagle Ottawa, and premium seat foam is tailored for all Black Label trim packages.
All About the Ambience
Customers learn about these design themes in a display studio required at all Black Label dealerships. The softly lit studio with comfortable chairs has a cabinet with drawers containing the elements paired with each package so customers can quickly grasp the overall aesthetic.
In addition, each showroom must have at least one Black Label MKC and MKZ at all times.
“We know our clients want to be able to get in and feel this leather, see the Alcantara, feel the Alcantara,” says Paul Bucek, Lincoln Black Label operations manager. “It’s important to be able to get in and immerse yourself in the vehicle.”
Every dealer seeking Black Label certification will need to invest in showroom improvements, and staff will need extensive hospitality training as well, Bucek says.
Despite recent growth, Lincoln remains a small luxury player.
Through October, the brand has sold 76,671 vehicles, compared with 311,681 for BMW, 290,622 for Daimler/Mercedes and 244,038 for Lexus, according to WardsAuto data. Lincoln also lags Audi (146,133), Cadillac (141,452), Acura (135,177) and Infiniti (93,925) through October.
But Lincoln executives are optimistic because the MKC, which launched two months ago, is off to a strong start, outselling both the BMW X3 and Mercedes GLK in October, and sales of the refreshed Navigator SUV are up 25%.
Within a year, Frick says he expects 5% of Lincolns sold will be of the Black Label variety.
Black Label MKZs and MKCs will be assembled alongside mainstream models at their respective plants in Hermosillo, Mexico, and Louisville, KY.