Lincoln Focuses on Digital Technology Over Electrification

Ford's Luxury Brand Taking Different Approach Than the Likes of Jaguar, Alfa Romeo and Cadillac
Sanderson Lincoln Boutique in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The Sanderson Lincoln Boutique in Scottsdale, Ariz., is an example of the brand's alternative to traditional dealerships. (Lincoln/TNS)

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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — While other small, premium brands like Jaguar, Alfa Romeo and Cadillac have rushed toward high-tech, all-electric drivetrains sniffing a historic opportunity to redefine themselves, Lincoln is taking a different road.

Ford’s luxury brand is introducing cutting-edge digital tech — but without the battery skateboard chassis underneath.

Debuting inside the midsize Nautilus SUV, the Lincoln Digital Experience’s 48-inch, pillar-to-pillar screen is the most revolutionary cabin since Tesla — leaning into the brand’s “quiet luxury” theme along with its self-driving BlueCruise driver-assistance system, boutique dealership experiences and digitally scented tech. Under the hood are traditional, sippy, turbo-4 gas engines.

“[We’re] listening to what customers really need. Navigator customers tend to tow more, so [battery power] doesn’t make as much sense,” Lincoln President Dianne Craig said, referring to the brand’s flagship, three-row, twin-turbo V6-powered SUV. “That’s how we think about this transition — whether it’s hybrids, plug-in hybrids, full hybrids, ultimately to EVs down the road — it’s going to be different depending on segmentation. And segmentation is different based on different customers we serve.”

Lincoln interior

Lincoln has installed a pillar-to-pillar screen like the one featured in the Star concept into the production version of the redesigned Nautilus. (Lincoln/TNS)

That’s a sharp U-turn from just two years ago. In April 2022, Lincoln was sprinting to an electric future under then-President Joy Falotico with the introduction of the Lincoln Star Concept — revealing a new, dynamic, grille-less fascia complete with light show like crosstown rival Cadillac and its Lyriq EV.

The Star was the first of three EVs to be delivered by next year — and a fourth by 2026 — as the brand predicted half of its global volume would be electric by mid-decade. At the EV’s Los Angeles premiere, brand spokesperson and actor Matthew McConaughey gushed that the Star “has a wonderful identity. It’s not a new page; it’s a new chapter.”

At the Nautilus media test drive in Palm Springs, there was not an electric vehicle in sight.

“Back in 2021 and 2022, there was overall hope from automakers that was ahead of what was realistic,” said analyst Stephanie Brinley, S&P Global associate director of auto intelligence. “You have to sell to pragmatic buyers after the first adopters and that’s been hard to do. Electric vehicles are not taking off like the industry expected.”

Lincoln Star

Actor Matthew McConaughey gushed in April 2022 that the Lincoln Star “has a wonderful identity. It’s not a new page; it’s a new chapter.” However, its arrival has been slowed by Lincoln. (Lincoln/TNS)

The Blue Oval’s Ford brand took the lead on EVs, unveiling the Mustang Mach-E SUV and Lightning pickup to rave media reviews and a flood of customer pre-orders. Fast forward to January and the Mach-E was the nation’s eighth-slowest selling vehicle with 302 days of inventory according to CarEdge. Lightning, meanwhile, reduced production from three shifts to one due to reduced demand.

Still, the niche sales brought Ford needed breathing room from government regulations that threaten other automakers with billions in fines in the decade ahead. Toyota, for example, says it will pay the fines rather than build vehicles customers don’t want.

“Ford has changed its plans for electrification and that has impacted Lincoln,” Brinley said.

Confirmed Craig: “We’re not going to make any grand declarations specific to where the brand is going with electrification until . . . we really understand what our premium customers want. The time will come, for sure, but right now we are focused on the wonderful product lineup we have between the Corsair, Nautilus and new Aviator.”


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What that product line shares with the electric Star Concept is the wall-to-wall jumbotron. The Nautilus allows Lincoln to focus on its technology story — which has been synonymous with EVs — while maintaining buzz with gas-electric hybrid drivetrains in Nautilus and Corsair.

“Nautilus is important because its is bringing tech into the brand,” said Brinley.

The panoramic screen complements a digital, push-button console shifter and seven digital scents that customers can release into the cabin. This tech in the Nautilus will migrate to other models.

“It’s not just tech for tech’s sake, it’s very intuitive tech,” Craig said. “The screen is stunning when you get into the car. It’s first in segment. It needs to be simple; it need to be intuitive because some of these technologies are not.”

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The Lincoln Digital Experience was introduced much like a living room suite, with journalists taking system tutorials while in a hotel — before taking the Nautilus out on the road.

Tesla and Lucid luxury brands introduce customers to their unique, high-tech interiors — not in dealerships — but in boutiques inside shopping malls and in city storefronts. Stripped of the intimidation of sales desks and test drives, boutiques allow casual customers to sample features.

Lincoln, too, is moving to this idea as a way to advance its slogan: Power of Sanctuary.

The brand has encouraged closing traditional dealerships and opening what it calls vitrines (inspired by French glass display cases) like the dealer-run Sanderson Lincoln Boutique in Scottsdale, Ariz., or the brand-owned Lincoln Experience Center in Newport Beach, Calif.

Vitrines are comfortable spaces complete with technology demonstrations, a cafe and a few new cars.

“It’s about meeting customers where they want us to serve them,” said Craig. “We have our vitrines — almost 60 that are done — they are beautiful facilities that are all about being warm and personally crafted. We have another 30 in the works.”

“We know our customers want a no-pressure environment,” she continued. “If a customer doesn’t want to come into a dealership, then we will meet them on their terms, including in their home or place of business.”

That low-pressure environment extends to not forcing EVs, even as automakers like Lincoln see the transition as inevitable.

“There is transition with any technology including electric vehicles. We’ll eventually come to that tipping point,” said the Lincoln president. “But right now [from] everything we are learning from our customers, now is not the right time for us to be making those declarations about EVs.”

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