Apr 11, 2001 - The Lincoln MK 9 coupe concept, unveiled today in New York, points to the design direction of future Lincoln vehicles and according to Lincoln, is a statement of the brand's "American Luxury" signature.
"The Lincoln MK 9 displays a timeless elegance borne of the design's inherent simplicity and visual logic, while its overall exuberance is unmistakably American," says Lincoln Design Director Gerry McGovern. "During the next several years, Lincoln will build on the design direction evident in the MK 9 through new concept and production vehicles."
The concept features dramatic proportions and stance, combined with an overall restraint in execution. The car has a short nose/long tail stance, with the cabin set well back from the front wheels. The interior is designed to be indulgent and comfortable - all characteristics that define "American Luxury."
One of concepts most striking features is the chrome-accented upper shoulder line that runs the length of the vehicle, sweeping down to define the edges of the front and rear fascias. Gloss black paint highlights the smooth sweep of the bodyside surfaces, and highlights the chrome details.
The face of the MK 9 incorporates an evolution of a Lincoln signature grille flanked by twin xenon gas discharge headlamps. The turn signal indicators are integrated into each lamp unit. The front end on the MK9 seems a little conservative however alongside the concept sketches, which have a more individual and angular theme.
The elegant and sophisticated appearance of the MK 9's front fenders and hood are enhanced by functional air vents. Each prominent fender outlet is part of a ring frame that traces the sill and door aperture to enhance structural integrity. The ring frames also act as mounting surfaces for the machined aluminum door hinges, which provide excellent articulation to improve ingress and egress. The lower sections of the ring frames are exposed as a design element, to provide a mechanical detail which contrasts with the simple bodyside.
The aluminum door handles are flush-mounted to the door skin and present themselves to the driver and passenger by remote control.
The twin rectangular dual exhaust outlets are shaped to complement the horizontal emphasis of the red LED tail lamps. The 22-inch alloy wheels are fitted with P275/45/R22 Continental tires in front and P295/40/R22 tires in the rear.
Inside the MK 9, a combination of Dark Cherry Red and Marlboro Red leathers with accents of polished metal create a luxurious lounge environment. Dark Cherry saddle leather is used for the flooring, and white leather is used for the headliner.
The front seats - which are cantilevered off the center console to improve passenger foot space - take their design influence from the Eames Lounge Chair, a mid-20th Century American classic. There are visual connections between exterior and interior, such as the body-colored seat shells and the horizontal chrome finishers.
The symmetrical dashboard is clean and simple, and has more of a 'retro' feeling than the exterior of the vehicle. The etched glass instruments are crafted with jewel-like quality and illuminated indirectly.
The MK9's controls are a combination of advanced digital and analog interfaces. Navigation and telematics information is displayed on a reconfigurable screen in the center console that is operated by retractable controls that sit flush when not in use. The transmission selection is by an electronic, column-mounted paddle shifter.
The center and roof consoles have dimmable electro-luminescent light panels behind translucent metallic surfaces. Individual spotlights mounted in the headliner use fiber-optic technology.
The Lincoln MK 9 is the first tangible expression of the new values and philosophy that will guide Lincoln's growth in North America, and eventually, in Europe and other markets around the world, says Mark Hutchins, president of Lincoln Mercury.
"Regardless of which markets the vehicles are sold in or when, Lincolns should be recognized for timeless design, indulgent comfort and effortless performance. But as they evolve, Lincolns always will be distinctively and unabashedly American", Hutchins says.
The creation of a design philosophy to define American Luxury is being driven by an international team of designers headed by Jerry McGovern, who joined Lincoln Mercury in 1999 from Rover Group, where he was Design Director for Land Rover vehicles.
"Lincoln has given me an incredible opportunity to hand-select a team of the best young designers from all over the world to explore the brand's heritage and build a design philosophy around the tangible and emotional qualities that define America and American Luxury," McGovern says.
"We have a holistic view of product design that is different from a traditional automotive approach," McGovern adds. "Lincoln Design and our show properties like the MK 9 are about defining and embracing a philosophy to guide every step of the product development process."
Lincoln achieved great commercial success in the past with full-size cars such as the Lincoln Town Car. The '90s, however, saw a fundamental shift in Lincoln's product range and customer appeal, which is one of the drivers behind the adoption of a new design philosophy.
The Town Car and other traditional Lincolns primarily appealled to affluent consumers who favored large, conservatively styled vehicles. But the Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicle and the Lincoln LS sport sedan are attracting a new customer base. Fully 60 percent of Navigator customers and nearly 70 percent of LS customers had never owned a Lincoln before, and most are in their early 50s, compared with well over 60 for Town Car.
"Many of our Lincoln Navigator and LS customers represent a generation that is the most affluent in history," says Lincoln Mercury General Marketing Manager Jim Rogers. "They have extremely high standards and expectations for every product they buy, and different ideas about luxury than other generations."
"The consumers driving the luxury market today - and the future customers building their careers now - are very design-aware," McGovern adds.
As evidence of the growing appetite of Americans and Europeans for design, McGovern points to the success of products such as Apple's notebook computers, Zero Halliburton cases (which are both American products) and the popularity of designer hotels, such as Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills.
"It is appropriate for Lincoln, as an American brand, to claim automotive design leadership because Americans have always been very receptive to innovative design," he continues. "The freedom of expression in America, and the youthful character and optimistic nature of Americans has produced truly influential designers and architects such as Charles Eames and Pierre Koenig. For the same reasons, America has always had great appeal to innovators from all over the world. People such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Eero Saarinen did some of their best work here."
The Lincoln design team, which includes interior designers, modelers, materials experts and packaging engineers, began their work with an exploration of Lincoln's heritage.
"Before we could define what Lincoln design should stand for in the future, we first had to understand its past," said McGovern. "In our exploration, we learned that two Lincoln coupes - the 1940 Continental and the 1956 Continental Mark II - followed by the iconic Continental sedans and convertibles of the 1960s, had tremendous caché and were incredible design statements. Interestingly, they all have design elements that are still appropriate in a modern context."