Lincoln, formally known as the Lincoln Motor Company, has been an American luxury automaker owned by Ford Motor Company. During its years of production, it’s always been competing against Cadillac. This has led to a Lincoln vs. Cadillac debate for nearly a full century.
The company earned its name after Abraham Lincoln and was founded by Henry Leland in 1917. Just a few years after its creation, the Ford Motor Company purchased the brand in 1922. After World War II, the brand was paired together with the company’s Mercury label, which became the Lincoln-Mercury division. Then, in 2012, they rebranded it under the company’s original name, which was the Lincoln Motor Company.
Since Ford no longer has any interest in Land Rover, Volvo, Aston Martin, or Jaguar, Lincoln is its only luxury nameplate. Their current line of vehicles includes Lincoln SUVs, crossovers, and sedans. They’ve also created limousines, most notably for various Presidents.
An Overview Of Lincoln Car History
Founded in 1917, the Lincoln Motor Company started as a creation of Henry Leland together with his son Wilfred. He was also one of the founders of Cadillac but sold that company in 1909 to General Motors. He remained part of the executives in the company through 1917 until he had a falling out with William Durant, the GM President.
Leland named his new car company after President Abraham Lincoln. To start the company, he used the financing he received from a $10 million investment aimed at building Liberty V12 aircraft engines. Lincoln used parts from other automakers to make the Liberty engines. Ford produced the cylinders while Cadillac, Buick, Packard, and Marmon supplied the rest. By the time World War I was over, there were 6,500 Liberty engines produced by the company.
Their first automobile was the Lincoln Model L. Its sole purpose was to compete with Cadillac and any other luxury car brands. Lincoln’s Model L was equipped with a V8 engine that came from the Liberty V12 technology.
Ford Motor Company
In the 1920s, the Lincoln Motor Company began to struggle with shifting from creating military equipment to producing automobiles. At the time, there were customers waiting up to a year to have the completed vehicle. Because of this, in 1922, the company was facing bankruptcy. That’s when the Ford Motor Company acquired Lincoln for $8 million.
Henry Ford had already designed luxury vehicles for the Ford Company but wanted a stand-alone division. His previous luxury cars included the Model B, Model F, and Model K.
There was a personal reason that Ford wanted to acquire Lincoln as well. Back in 1902, Henry Ford was forced to leave the company he created, the Henry Ford Company. Henry Leland led the investors that acquired that company and later turned it into Cadillac which they then sold in 1909 to General Motors. Wilfred and Henry Leland were retained initially to manage the Lincoln Company, but later in 1922, they were both removed.
To take their place, Edsel Ford took over. By 1923, they were producing several changes to the brand and adding new models. They built almost 8,000 vehicles that year which was up 45% from the previous years.
The Early Years
Customers started purchasing many Lincolns, in varying body styles. That’s when the company actively started introducing different styles and types of vehicles. The Model L was removed from the lineup to create something more modern. The Model K became a direct competitor against the 355 Chrysler Imperial from Cadillac.
In 1932, they introduced their first V12 motor. It wasn’t the first inside an American-made car, but they were the first to produce their vehicles with all V12 engines. At the time, they retired their V8.
Another popular introduction of the time was the Lincoln-Zephyr. It competed against the Chrysler Airstream and LaSalle. With this new model, sales skyrocketed ninefold in just one year.
The Lincoln Continental
Later in the 1930s, Lincoln desired to create cars that were less boxy. That’s why they commissioned E.T. Gregorie, Ford’s Chief Stylist, with the task of designing a vehicle featuring the one-off body. They used a 1939 Lincoln-Zephyr Convertible Coupe chassis for their creation. They sectioned the body by four inches, deleted its running boards, and mounted a spare tire on its trunk lid.
Edsel Ford took the car on his vacation to Florida and popularity crew from buyers. They referred to it as European and Continental, which is where the name came from.
Becoming Part of the Team
After the Depression, most luxury car companies in America needed to reorganize or close. At the time, the competition included Cadillac, Chrysler, and Packard. In 1940, Ford Motor Company agreed that they needed to reorganize Lincoln as the Lincoln Division of their company. Prior to that, they had been their own entity.
As this change occurred, several other things were shifted with the vehicle line. In 1941, the Continental was produced for consumers. In addition, they replaced the Model K with the Zephyr.
During World War II, all the American automakers ended production to concentrate on war efforts. Once the war ended in 1945, Ford changed Lincoln’s structure again. It became the Lincoln-Mercury company. This continued until Mercury closed in 2010.
In 1949, they released the new EL-series. It required the use of the first V8 by Lincoln for seventeen years. They also got rid of running boards in favor of pontoon styling.
Even though Lincoln and Mercury were grouped together, Ford wanted them to maintain clear distinctions. In 1952, they returned some of the original names back into the automobile world. This included the Cosmopolitan and Capri.
Then in 1956, they reorganized again into the Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln brand. Around the same time, the Lincoln plant, which was built in 1917 by Leland, was closed down. Instead of being made in that factory in Detroit, Michigan, future Lincolns were created with Mercury vehicles instead. Then, in 1957, they opened a new facility in Wixom, Michigan, which handled the majority of Lincoln production through 2007.
Expanding the Continental
During 1956, Ford created the new Continental Division. It became a flagship marque for Lincoln. The first vehicle was the Lincoln Continental Mark II. This two-door coupe featured a design that was unlike most American automobiles at the time. It came with whitewall tires, a small amount of chrome trim, and a spare tire on the trunk lid.
At first, the company considered having a separate network for the sales of Continental but decided it was better to market them as a Lincoln. In 1956, the cost to own a Mark II was $10,000, which equals approximately $90,000 in present-day money. At the time, it was the most costly American car produced and even rivaled the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud.
Because of their hand-built manufacturing, the Mark II incurred a loss for the company of $1,000 each time one was sold. That’s why in 1957, the company withdrew them from the market. That’s when the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham became the most expensive from an American automaker.
In 1958, the Mark III was released with a body style like a Lincoln and a drastic reduction in price. It also had a retractable rear window as part of its design. In 1959, it was renamed the Mark III with subsequent models becoming the Mark IV and Mark V. The company ended the Continental division in 1959 and officially made them Lincoln cars in 1960.
During the late 1950s into the 1960s, the company started to lose more than $60 million. This forced Ford to re-evaluate the operations. The President at the time, Robert McNamara, even considered reducing Ford to just its namesake and getting rid of the other brands. In order to continue, Lincoln needed to reduce its model lineup size.
So, in 1961, the lineup was consolidated to just a Lincoln Continental. There were no further additions past the Mark V. The newer version saw a reduction of length by 15 inches and a shorter wheelbase by 8 inches. There were four body styles at the time and the Continental became the only four-door convertible that was mass-produced in the United States.
Another way the company saved money was to increase the cycle of each model from the previous term of three years out to a lengthier nine years. This improved consistency and made quality control easier. Then, in 1966, they added a new two-door hardtop to compete with the Imperial Crown and Coupe de Ville lines. In 1967, the four-door Continental convertible was discontinued. Weighing just shy of 6,000 pounds, it was the heaviest car that Ford ever produced which wasn’t a limousine. It was also the last time that Americans saw a four-door convertible.
New Cars in the 1970s
The 1970s created lots of roadblocks for automakers. From the new federal safety regulations to the fuel crisis of 1973, there were a lot of issues for automobile manufacturers to consider. Lincoln needed to create a smaller compact and full-size sedan for the marketplace. In 1970, the Continental had its first redesign in nine years, just as promised. It grew visibly in size and adapted the Marquis chassis.
They also released the Town Car which served as a submodel of the Continental line. When the Cadillac Seville became popular in 1976, Lincoln responded with the introduction of the Versailles. It was 1500 pounds less than a Continental was also shorter by 30 inches. This car was only produced for two years because it didn’t gain enough popularity.
In 1977, the Mark IV was replaced with the Mark V. It had major revisions and was now longer than 19 feet. That’s what made it one of the larger coupes ever in the North American market. Even though most automakers were producing smaller vehicles, the Mark V became one of the most successful of all the Mark series. In just three years, 228,000 units were sold.
The brand had trouble balancing fuel efficiency, downsizing, and emissions controls during this era. They also began competing against Japanese and European automakers in an industry that used to be mainly American.
During the 1980s, the Continental had a complete overhaul in design. This version became the lightest since World War II. It shared the chassis underpinnings of both the Ford and Mercury brands. It also utilized the Ford Panther platform from the Marquis and LTD. With all the changes, fuel economy rose almost 40%.
Lincoln turned the Continental into the Town Car during this time as well. During this decade, the Town Car remained unchanged for the most part. The model increased in sales throughout the decade while Cadillac declined. In 1988, it became the first front-wheel-drive vehicle for the Lincoln brand. It was also the first year that they didn’t use a V8 or V12 engine but instead chose to go with a 3.8-liter V6 instead.
In 1989, the Continental was the first American sedan to come equipped with dual airbags as a standard feature.
The End of a Century
Lincoln found itself at the top of the luxury market with only three models. That was a small comparison to the seven that Cadillac was offering and the four from Mercedes-Benz. To keep up with the federal requirements, they also released numerous safety features which included antilock brakes.
In 1998, the Continental went through a large redesign. With side airbags and upgraded electronics, it was a big transition. The Lincoln Town Car also saw a complete redesign of the interior and exterior. That same year, the company released the first Lincoln SUV, the Navigator. It featured a shared body with the Expedition and was a tough competitor against the Mercedes M-Class, Lexus LX450, and Range Rover. Because of the immense response, the company outsold Cadillac by more than 4,000 vehicles that year. To compete, Cadillac introduced the Escalade.
In the Modern Age
As the new century began, Lincoln stopped production of the Mark series and focused more on its Navigator SUV. They also released their LS mid-size sedan; It shared parts with the Jaguar S-Type. It didn’t stay on the market long and was the shortest run of any production car from the company.
In 2002, they also developed their first truck, the Blackwood. It was a mixture of the F-150 and a Navigator. It didn’t receive a warm welcome from truck enthusiasts because of the limited cargo room and lack of four-wheel drive. They tried again in 2005 with the Mark LT. This was also based on the F-150 but this time all-wheel drive was an option. Still, it wasn’t received well by the consumer.
In 2006, they released the Zephyr. It became the smallest sedan from the company ever created. It was later rebranded as the MKZ while the MKX crossover was introduced.
In 2009, they introduced their full-size sedan the MKS. It was their first since 1980. As Ford continued restructuring, they scheduled the Wixom Assembly plant to close. This was home to all Lincoln vehicles except the Mark LT, Blackwood, Navigator, and Versailles. Ford then announced the closure of Mercury in 2010.
In 2015, they introduced new SUVs including the MKC compact crossover and the revised Navigator. The MKC was their first solely with a four-cylinder engine. Their newer Navigator also had an engine change. It used a 3.5 twin-turbocharged V6 engine that came from the F-150. This was the first Navigator that didn’t have the option to use a V8.
In 2018, they did another revamp of the Navigator. The Navigator Black Label has become Ford’s most expensive car to date aside from their GT supercars.
Alternative Propulsion Methods
In 2011, the company introduced the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid which is still in production. It used the hybrid powertrain out of the Mercury Milan and Ford Fusion. The 2.5-liter Duratec I4 hybrid engine features an electric motor that’s capable of producing 191 horsepower. There’s an EV mode which allows drivers to go short distances on just electricity.
During 2011, it was the only hybrid on the market that featured the same price as the gasoline version. That same year, 20% of all the MKZ sales were for the hybrid version.
The MKZ Hybrid has been ranked above Lexus in all categories. In addition, the Union of Concerned Scientists gave praise to the MKZ Hybrid because it was available while keeping the features to a minimum. This allowed the company to sell it at a regular price.
Lincoln Safety and Crash Ratings
The IIHS labeled the 2018 Lincoln Continental as a Top Safety Pick+. It received “Good” ratings in every category except Child Seat Anchors. In 2017, the MKZ was also a Top Safety Pick with a “Good” rating in every category except Headlights and Child Seat Anchors.
Then, in 2017, the Lincoln Continental received top honors among the six larger cars that were tested. In comparison, they ranked much higher than the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, and the Tesla Model S.
This list of available safety equipment available in Lincoln vehicles is nearly endless. There’s the available Advancetrac with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Roll Stability Control (RSC). They also have ABS and Driveline Traction Control plus side impact beams. The BLIS Blind Spot Sensor and Cross Traffic Alert Rear Collision are newer options along with the Tire Specific Low Tire Pressure Warning.
There’s dual-stage driver and passenger seat-mounted airbags as well as front and rear parking sensors. Other airbags include the dual-stage driver and passenger front airbags, plus safety canopy system curtain 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-row airbags.
Many vehicles also have the Mykey System available which features a top speed limiter, audio volume limiter, early low fuel warning, programmable sound chimes and a beltminder with audio mute. Last, but not least, they offer rear child safety locks, outboard front lap and shoulder safety belts, plus a backup camera with washer.
Lincoln Safety Recalls
Lincoln isn’t listed on most safety recall charts due to the fact that they don’t sell as many vehicles as most manufacturers. With that in mind, it’s difficult to tell how they stack up against the competition.
In 2018, the brand did issue two recalls of importance. The first occurred in February and was for the MKC Crossovers. An incorrect brake jounce hose in the front interfered with braking components during normal driving and could’ve led to a brake fluid leak.
Then, in March, there was another recall affecting 1.38 million Lincoln and Ford vehicles. Steering wheels were becoming loose or completely detached. The recall affected 2014 through 2018 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ vehicles.
The causes were traced back to a potentially loose steering wheel bolts which led to the detachment or loosening from the steering column. There had been numerous reports from drivers over the scary situations this put them in.
Consumer Satisfaction Reports & Dependability Ratings
When it comes to customer satisfaction and dependability, Lincoln seems to be on par with other automakers. Consumer Reports placed them in the middle of their recommended car brands report. They ranked higher in owner satisfaction then they did in product reliability.
In the J.D. Power Dependability Study on Midsize Premium SUVs, the MKX came in second place behind the Lexus GX. It had a five-star rating for Body and Interior Dependability, four-star ratings for Overall Dependability plus Feature and Accessory Dependability, and a three-star rating for Powertrain Dependability.
In the J.D. Power Dependability Study on Compact Premium SUVs, the MKC ranked with good ratings. It received a four-star rating for Body and Interior Dependability with a three-star rating on everything else.
Consumer Reports placed the Lincoln brand near the low-end of the scale on Maintenance and Repair Costs. They surveyed readers to find out what their car repair costs had been. On average, after three years, the average price was only $40. After ten years, that cost only went up to $360.
The Lincoln Motor Company has been the recipient of many prestigious awards. Some of the most notable include –
- 2018 Lincoln Navigator named North American Truck of the Year at the 2018 North American International Auto Show
- 2018 Lincoln Continental earned a spot on Autotrader’s annual 10 Best Car Interiors Under $50,000 list.
- The 2018 MKX and MKZ Hybrid landed spots on Vincentric Best Fleet Value in America list.
- 2017 Lincoln was named the most satisfying premium brand in AutoPacific’s 21st annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards while regaining leadership from Tesla.
- 2017 Lincoln earned the luxury segment’s highest loyalty rate among new luxury-vehicle buyers in the first quarter of 2017, according to IHS Markit Loyalty data.
Worldwide Lincoln Distribution
The Lincoln brand has made its way to other parts of the world as well. During the 1990s and 2000s, There was a version of the Town Car, produced by Honqi and distributed in Asia. The kits had a redesigned exterior, new front fenders, grille tail lamps and headlamps. They also provided the CA7400 prototype which was a limousine ranging in three varying lengths.
Then, in 2014, Ford launched the Lincoln brand in China with the MKC and MKZ. Nearing the end of 2016, they established 60 dealerships. Their sales increased by almost 200% over 2015. This caused the brand to consider producing vehicles in the country starting in 2019.
At this time, Lincoln has not made it into the European market as of yet. Instead, Ford used the Fiesta, Juga, S-Max, Edge, and Mondeo, produced as part of the Vignale brand, to compete with the luxury vehicles there.
Throughout the 20th century, Lincoln created many state limousines for the Presidents. This started with Franklin D. Roosevelt and went through George H. W. Bush. They also produced the first armored vehicles for the Presidents.
The Model K V12 convertible was created for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939. It was dubbed the Sunshine Special. After a few years, they added bulletproof glass and armor plating. It was then used for Truman as well but later retired in 1948. Visitors to the Henry Ford Museum can see the Sunshine Special.
In 1950, ten Cosmopolitans were created for the White House. President Eisenhower had a Plexiglas roof installed that was removable. That’s where it got the Bubble Top name from. These were used by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson but were retired by 1965.
President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 while riding in his Continental convertible. That SS-100X (code name) was then remanufactured and fitted with new security modifications. It stopped being used in the front-line by 1967 and later retired completely from service in 1977. It’s now on display at the Henry Ford Museum.
In 1974, the Ford administration received a 1972 armored Continental limousine. With all the upgrades, this limo weighed almost 13,000 pounds. It was used by Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan and saw two assassination attempts. This car is also on display at the Ford Museum.
The final Lincoln Presidential car was the 89 Town Car. It was given to President George H.W. Bush. It was powered by a 7.5-liter V8 engine which was the same powertrain from an F-250 truck. This car is showcased in College Station, Texas at the Presidential Library. Since then, presidents have used Cadillac-sourced limousines.
Snapshot of the Company
The Lincoln Motor Company is headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan. In 2018, Joy Falotico took over as the group’s vice president and Chief Marketing Officer. They currently employ about 6,700 people.
Lincoln had its two best years for U.S. sales in 1989 and 1990 with 200,315 and 231,660 vehicles sold. That was due mainly because of the newly redesigned Continental at the time. That version of the Continental was released in December 1987 while the updated Town Car was released in October 1989.
In 2017, the company sold 188,383 automobiles around the globe. Aside from North America, they are also sold in China, South Korea, and the Middle East.
The company has an estimated annual revenue of $20.4 million.
Ford is the parent company of Lincoln since 1922 when they purchased them for $8 million at the time. They also have a small stake in Mazda. Ford also maintains an 8% stake in Aston Martin, but they once owned more.
In 1958, the company began using a framed four-pointed star for its logo. It was first used in 1956 for the Continental Mark II. Since then, it’s had several updates to its appearance, but hasn’t changed much since 1980.
Prior to that, they used a greyhound hood ornament. Then, they replaced that with a knight’s helmet. Their next change was to a coat of arms that had a red cross. That was placed on the car’s front fascia. The last update before the star was a rocket-type hood ornament.
The company has used several well-known people to promote their line of vehicles. The most well-known showcases the star Matthew McConaughey. He is seen driving various Lincoln vehicles. The commercials feature cryptic monologues that don’t always make sense, but it works for the company. It causes people to feel like they should buy or lease a Lincoln.
The newest brand ambassador for the company is Serena Williams. She promotes the Lincoln Navigator with its spacious interior combined with updated technology. In her social media commercials, she promotes the Navigator as an ideal family vehicle.
The Lincoln Motorcar Heritage Museum is found at the Gilmore Car Museum campus and has been open since 2014. This museum is modeled after a historical dealership and was created by the Lincoln Motor Car Foundation.
Inside, there are more than 20 automobiles displayed including a rare 1939 K convertible sedan which was built for the King and Queen of England. There’s also an original Continental Mark II from 1955 as well as a 1928 Judkins Berline.
Aside from the vehicles, the Lincoln Stones are also on display. This is a large limestone panel that is engraved and was once used at the entrance of the administration building.
When you find a Lincoln for sale that you want to purchase, Lincoln Financial helps to make that dream a reality. They offer flexible payment options as well as competitive leasing terms. They also provide Lincoln Protect Extended Service Plans. These plans cover four levels of protection for your vehicle. They cover failures from defective materials or workmanship. The highest coverage plan is the PremiumCare followed by ExtraCare, then BaseCare and finally PowertrainCare. With the PremiumCare, more than 1,000 components are covered on the vehicle.
Leases are also protected by the WearCare program. That allows all responsibility for excess wear and use at the end of the lease to be waived up to $10,000.
With the company’s GAPCoverage, you are protected in case of a total loss. Whatever the insurance company doesn’t pick up, the GapCoverage handles so you don’t have an outstanding loan.
Many people think that the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA is sponsored by the motor company, but it isn’t. The Lincoln Financial Group is a separate company focused on retirement savings and investments.
There are more than 3,000 Ford and Lincoln dealerships in the United States. To find the best of the best, you would want to look for one that’s won the President’s Award. Less than 10% of the dealerships earn this prestigious award. It’s given to those that excel at achieving high levels of customer service in the audited surveys.
Another place to look is the J.D. Power Dealers of Excellence listing. At this time, there’s only one dealership ranked and it’s Randall Reed’s Park Cities Ford Lincoln in Dallas, Texas.
5 Interesting Facts about Lincoln Motor Company
1 – The Lincoln line of vehicles owe their name to Abraham Lincoln. Founder Henry Leland was a big fan of the president and decided to honor him with the company name.
2 – During a 2013 poll, the company was listed as the top American brand. This ranked higher than Cadillac among the U.S. drivers
3 – The founder, Henry Leland, was also the former manager of Cadillac which is a division of General Motors.
4 – The company has a long history of providing limousines to the Presidents of the United States. In fact, they’ve produced more than any other automaker.
5 – Lincoln has been a part of the Ford Motor Company since 1922.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Lincoln a Ford? They’ve been owned by the Ford Motor Company since 1922. They also share some parts between the two companies.
Does Lincoln Make a Truck? The Lincoln Mark LT was sold from 2005 through 2008. It was the company’s luxury pickup truck and basically a rebadged F-150 that features a luxurious cabin. They had one other pickup truck, the Blackwood. They had hoped to sell 13,000 of them annually but only sold a little over 10,000.
Will Lincoln Still Make Cars? Ford recently announced plans to eliminate their sedan lineup in North America, so it’s only fair to question whether Lincoln plans to do the same thing. Thankfully, the company has stated that they are still committed to producing both the MKZ and the Continental in the U.S.
Are Lincoln MKZs Good Cars? Yes. The MKZ is a great choice if you are looking for a spacious, reliable sedan. It’s more luxurious than comparable vehicles and has more amenities to offer. It has a large trunk and roomy back seat. It also features a lower starting price than most of its rivals. Aside from that, it offers a relaxing, quiet ride and has a peppy engine. If you want to opt instead for the hybrid powertrain, it won’t cost you any extra.
Does Lincoln Make a Convertible? They don’t currently have a convertible in their lineup, but the MKZ does have a retractable panoramic glass roof. It retracts fully to offer a new perspective and experience. Simply push a button and the single pane of glass sides back offering the largest opening among any current sedan.