For decades, limousines and livery cars were either Lincoln Town Cars or Mercury Grand Marquis sedans. Sure, Cadillac made an attempt to hold their place in the market, but their full-size front wheel drive sedans found few buyers. Chrysler even tossed their hat into the ring with the previous generation 300, which was available in a stretched model for commercial buyers.
Fast forward to the second half of 2011. The Grand Marquis is already gone, a victim of Ford’s shuttering of Mercury. The Lincoln Town Car will be killed off in September, with no full size, front-engine, rear-drive platform to replace it. Instead, Lincoln is banking on fleet adoption of their under-selling MKT crossover, which is only available in FWD and AWD configurations. It’s not exactly elegant, either, and stepping out of a crossover doesn’t have the same impact as stepping out of a limousine.
That would seem to open up a door for Chrysler, who is the last remaining domestic automaker to build a full-size, front-engine, rear-drive sedan. They’d already tested the waters with the previous generation 300, so is it safe to assume that a long wheelbase version of the current 300 is in the works?
No, says Chrysler’s head of product planning, Curt Edgar. The custom fabrication necessary to stretch the wheelbase made construction more difficult and more expensive. Worse, demand from commercial customers wasn’t enough to justify production. As Edgar explained, “There is not a huge demand on that side of the business. If it’s not a huge volume, it’s tough to make a business case.”
Chrysler’s lack of interest effectively concedes to limousine and livery car market to Lincoln, but we have a hard time believing that fleets or executives will embrace Lincoln’s MKT.
[Automotive News -- subscription required]