Ford’s Lincoln Leaves Door Open for Gasoline Amid Electric Push

Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln luxury line is accelerating its electric vehicle strategy and plans to offer plug-ins throughout its lineup by 2030 -- but the automaker is also hedging its bets by keeping gas-burners in the showroom.

Lincoln will introduce its first all-electric model next year. By 2026, it expects half of its global volume to be gas-electric hybrids and vehicles that run only on batteries, with the selection ramping up from there. The remainder will be gasoline-only vehicles.

The strategy contrasts with the all-electric strategy General Motors Co.’s Cadillac laid out this year. Lincoln says it will give customers what they want.

“We don’t feel behind at all,” Joy Falotico, Lincoln’s president, said in an interview. “Some gasoline and hybrids may still be transitioning in 2030 and I believe other makers have come back and said that after the fact, but we’re saying it all up front.”

Lincoln is playing catch-up in the luxury market, where almost one-in-five sales are now battery powered, compared to just 2% of the mainstream market. Tesla Inc. dominates the market for plug-ins, but European and U.S. luxury brands are picking up the pace of EV launches. Cadillac moved up the start of production for its Lyriq electric SUV by almost a year to early 2022. And BMW just launched its iX xDrive50 crossover in the U.S.

“Lincoln is taking a somewhat more cautious approach,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at researcher Guidehouse Insights. “From a business standpoint, it’s not an unreasonable stance to take. It’s hard to make a 100% commitment when you still have to keep your business going at the same time.”

A recent study by consultant KPMG found the transition to electric vehicles will happen gradually, with 24% to 37% of the global market plugging in by 2030. Betting too big and too early on EVs could leave legacy automakers without the profits they need from gas-powered models. But electric laggards could end up road kill, the study found.

Ford, which has been viewed as trailing GM in the switch to battery power, recently boosted its spending target on EVs by 36% to $30 billion by 2025. Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley said last month he expects four-in-10 of Ford’s global sales to be electric by 2030.

‘Inflection Point’

Lincoln’s conversion will be faster, Falotico predicted, because luxury customers are more open to new technology.

“In 2026, we see an inflection point,” she said. “The luxury market is accelerating at a faster pace than the total mass market.”

Lincoln is not saying exactly when it will electrify each of its models, which include popular SUVs such as the Navigator.

Farley said last month Ford was preparing battery powered versions of its Explorer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs, though Falotico would not confirm that, saying only that the brand would electrify “our anchor products.” Lincoln already offers plug-in hybrid versions of its Aviator and Corsair SUVs.

Ford’s Lincoln Leaves Door Open for Gasoline Amid Electric Push

Lincoln said it will create four EV models off a new mechanical platform that packages the battery and electric motors underneath the vehicle, freeing up space that currently houses the engine and transmission.

Ford’s new electric F-150 Lightning pickup used the extra space to create a cavernous storage area where the engine is normally held that it calls the “Mega Power Frunk.” It includes a deep well with a drain for iced beverages.

Lincoln may use the extra space to expand its high-touch interiors.

“You could move the dashboard away from the front occupants and create something that feels like a roomier space,” Abuelsamid said. “There are a lot of options.”

Lincoln also will begin beaming software updates to its models this summer, including Inc.’s Alexa digital assistant and eventually hands-free driving technology.

Ford’s Lincoln Leaves Door Open for Gasoline Amid Electric Push

But car buyers may be wary of all-electric vehicles, especially with a charging infrastructure that is still spotty. Lincoln will continue to update its gas models as long as customers want that traditional propulsion system, Falotico said.

“We do recognize that it will be a transition and infrastructure has got to catch up,” she said. “That’s why we’ll continue to keep our SUVs fresh.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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