What's in a name?
Lincoln moniker system confuses Ford dealers
Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
What's in a name? Apparently, quite a lot as far as Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln brand is concerned.
Less than six months after the Lincoln division decided to rechristen its Zephyr sedan the MKZ (pronounced "mark zee"), the vehicle is getting yet another new name -- or at least a new pronunciation.
Last year, Lincoln decided to replace more traditional model names like "Aviator" and "Zephyr" with a new, alphabetic naming system.
Those vehicles were renamed MKX and MKZ, respectively, a move apparently designed to mimic the alphanumeric naming conventions used by upscale European and Asian brands like Mercedes and Acura.
That made sense to many industry watchers, but most were dismayed when Ford insisted that the new model names be pronounced "Mark X" and "Mark Z," rather than simply citing the letters.
Ford said it got an earful from people who thought the new naming scheme was downright confusing.
"The customers and dealers were unanimous in telling us that," Ford spokesman Jim Cain said. "We decided with finality that we're going to launch these vehicles as the MKX (pronounced em-kay-ex) and the MKZ (pronounced em-kay-zee)."
The decision was made last week.
That will be welcome news to Dave Knittel, general manager of Charlotte County Lincoln Mercury in Punta Gorda, Fla.
"That's the way our customers are going to pronounce it either way," he said.
In fact, Knittel had planned to refer to the vehicles that way regardless of what Ford wanted.
"The only thing that I have on my lot that's a 'mark' is the Mark LT," he said, referring to the Lincoln pickup of that name and spelling.
Like many dealers, he wishes Lincoln would have stuck with good, old-fashioned names like Zephyr and Aviator.
"Nobody likes change, and this is a big change," he said. "We've always had names."
And, at least for now, some Lincolns still will. The brand's luxury sport utility vehicle will remain the Navigator, and the Mark LT will stay the Mark LT.
But Ford says the new naming system does make sense.
"It's more modern and contemporary," Cain said. "That's the direction the brand is going."
Just why Ford has flip-flopped on the new Lincoln nomenclature remains unclear.
Some say the previous pronunciation was insisted upon by Mark Fields, president of Ford's Americas group, who picked it up from the Brits during his tenure as head of Ford's London-based Premier Automotive Group.
Others say the odd pronunciation was an attempt to dodge a lawsuit from Honda Motor Co. Honda sued Ford in January contending that the MKX, Lincoln's new luxury crossover utility vehicle, could be too easily confused with its own Acura MDX luxury sport utility vehicle. The lawsuit was quickly settled."It's not a big deal either way," said Jim Hall, an analyst with AutoPacific. "There is no such thing as a bad name for a good car. Conversely, a good name can't save a bad car."
Ford is hoping both cars will keep Lincoln's momentum going. Lincoln's sales are up slightly this year, largely on the strength of the Zephyr.