Lincoln pulled out all the stops at the New York International Auto Show to introduce its concept for the next Navigator. After a band played the Jazz standard “All of Me,” the Ford (F) luxury brand brought actor and spokesman Matthew McConaughey on stage with the Navigator, the large SUV that hasn’t seen a major overhaul in a decade. The concept car featured head-turning features including gullwing doors, custom interior storage and three steps that automatically unfold on each side of the vehicle. The shifter is made to resemble piano keys.
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Lincoln billed the Navigator as another example of “quiet luxury,” as the brand aims to attract buyers looking for a so-called couch on wheels. The interior is spacious, the seats are large, and the dashboard cuts down on clutter. Video screens are behind the headrests, and they’re not just for watching movies. Drivers can have their faces shown on the screens to communicate with passengers in the back. Under the hood is a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 that provides more than 400 horsepower. Lincoln says new technologies give the Navigator better handling in changing weather conditions.
The revamped Navigator is penciled in for 2017, the 20th anniversary of the SUV’s debut. Even though some features like the gullwing doors won’t make it to production, Lincoln’s vision for the three-row Navigator impressed the crowd in New York. “It’s a beautiful vehicle,” Rebecca Lindland, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said in an interview. “The SUV market is growing fast and furiously, even in those larger vehicles.” The Navigator is the latest revamped utility from Lincoln, which has made an aggressive push into the global luxury market with a focus on hot-selling crossovers. The MKC and MKX were Lincoln’s second- and third-best selling vehicles in the U.S. last year, respectively. The compact MKC posted sales of 24,590 units. But Lincoln sold just 12,000 Navigators, while General Motors (GM) sold triple the number of Cadillac Escalades. Lincoln expects a fresh Navigator to gain traction by attracting premium buyers both here and abroad, especially China and the Middle East. Lincoln announced on Wednesday it will launch a pickup and delivery service across the U.S. Ford CEO Mark Fields said Lincoln customers will be able to request the service at the time of purchase of when their vehicles are scheduled for service. “One of the groups that I don’t think gets enough attention is the domestically oriented luxury buyer,” Lindland said. “These are people that it doesn’t matter if they win the lottery, they are never going to buy a Japanese or German luxury car. They want the most beautiful F-150, or the most beautiful Lincoln. That’s where I think Lincoln has a real opportunity.”
In China, Lincoln continues to expand its footprint. The brand plans to have 60 dealers in 50 cities by the end of 2016. Despite sluggish economic growth in China, the luxury market is still seen as a big opportunity for high-end automakers like Lincoln and GM’s Buick brand. Lindland noted the concerns over China’s slow growth, but luxury buyers don’t feel the effects as much as consumers looking at mainstream brands. She added that Ford and Lincoln are popular in Saudi Arabia and other areas in the Middle East.