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Lincoln to Offer Black Label Specialized Interiors

Executive Summary

Ford’s luxury division will offer three uplevel interior trims, called “Center Stage,” “Indulgence” and “Modern Heritage.”

DEARBORN, MI – In an effort to heighten the sense of exclusivity surrounding its vehicles, Lincoln unveils the Black Label collection, a series of premium and exterior packages paired with what the auto maker says will be a higher level of “personal services and experiences.”

At the heart of the Black Label branding are three uplevel interior packages called “Center Stage,” “Indulgence” and “Modern Heritage.”

Featuring high-end materials, including Alcantara suede and premium leather supplied by Eagle Ottawa, each package is based on a theme created by four designers from Lincoln’s dedicated interiors team.

Center Stage, inspired by fashion and theater, consists of a mostly black interior with contrasting red headliner. The doors and seats are lined with Alcantara suede with specially designed perforations Lincoln says add a “plush texture.”

Indulgence features deep brown colors accented by Ziricote wood trim. Inspired by premium chocolates, the interior boasts Venetian leather and antique finishes.

Modern Heritage, a black-and-white motif, is targeted at customers who appreciate contemporary design. Premium white leather is accented with reconstituted wood imbued with metal flakes.

The packages include a “significant elevation of materials” over the current Lincoln interiors, Janet Seymour, color and design manager, says at a media preview here.

“We chose the best materials from around the world and designed themes to appeal to a wide range of personalities,” she says. “Each theme showcases innovative details and unique finishes.”

Upgraded materials are featured on nearly every part of the vehicle interior, including key touch points such as the instrument panel, doors and console, as well as the headliner, pillars, package tray, seats, trunk and floor mats.

The Black Label packages will continue to evolve, with some added and others discontinued depending on customer demand, the auto maker says.

A series of Black Label-exclusive exterior colors are offered with each package, including Black Tie, Confidential White, Crystal Silver, Chroma Flame, Chroma Couture and Notorious. Special wheels also are included in Black Label-trim cars.

The auto maker says the specialized colors won’t be offered on any Ford or Lincoln vehicle other than the Black Label series.

Lincoln officials have yet to announce what the “upgraded experience” will be for Black Label customers, saying only that Black Label experts will be on hand to guide them through the buying process.

“Customers will have a differentiated, upgraded experience, starting online,” says Matt VanDyke, director-global Lincoln. “We (will) work with dealers to define exactly what that experience is.”

Details, including pricing, are to be announced closer to launch, timing of which has not been pinpointed.

VanDyke says the Black Label packages will be available on the MKZ and subsequent new vehicles as they arrive. There are no plans to offer the packages on other Lincoln vehicles currently in the lineup, he says.

“Retrofitting the current vehicle lineup is problematic,” VanDyke says, noting Lincoln plans to launch four new products over the next four years. “We think the Black Label expression is only fully realized on the all-new products with dramatically different exteriors and interiors, which is why we went back and did it on MKZ.”

Lincoln is counting on new products like the MKZ and the Black Label packages to revitalize the luxury brand. Through July, sales were down 7.6% from year-ago to 45,207 vehicles, while MKZ deliveries dropped 1.8% to 17,249, according to WardsAuto data.

But with an expected take rate of only 6%-10%, it’s unclear how much the Black Label packages will bolster sales.

Dave Sullivan, analyst for AutoPacific, says he’s not sure Lincoln is going far enough with Black Label, especially considering competitors such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz offer personalized upgrade packages with much more variety.

“This is a one-size-fits-all package,” he says.

The rollout of Black Label will coincide with the launch of Lincoln in China, a market critical to the luxury brand’s long-term success. VanDyke says the packages will be customized for China and may carry a different name to avoid an association with “black market.”

“We’re not necessarily going to use Black Label in China where it has different connotations,” he says. “We want to be careful.”

While luxury-vehicle customers in China often choose uplevel trim packages, that may not be enough to make Lincoln competitive against long-established brands there, such as Audi and Mercedes, Sullivan says.

“If you want to compete in that market you need a huge rear seat, and MKZ doesn’t meet that criteria,” he says, referring to the trend toward chauffeur-driven vehicles. “Upgrading the interior and all that is not what customers in China are going to want.”


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