Motoring: A Ford by any other name...

Ford hopes Lincoln will give its new car more kudos
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Ford has unveiled the replacement for its ugly, slow-selling Scorpio big car. And it won't be called a Ford.

Instead, Ford will reintroduce the Lincoln name, which in America stands for big, conservative cars (typically aimed at old people) and in Europe, so Ford research suggests, stands for not very much at all. Lincolns haven't been sold in Europe since the Thirties and are probably best known here for typically supplying various US presidents with transport - including John F Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas.

The new car - the LS series - goes on sale early next year, after its debut at this week's New York Auto Show. It comes in two model guises, the LS6, powered by a 3.0-litre V6 engine, and the LS8, powered by the same 3.9-litre V8 engine used in Jaguar's XJ8 and XK8 models.

There's rather a lot of Jaguar pedigree in the Lincoln. The LS shares the same floorpan, suspension, V6 and V8 engines and transmissions as Jaguar's upcoming mid-sized executive car, codenamed X200, which is to be unveiled at this October's Birmingham Motor Show and which will hit British streets early in 1999.

However, the two cars share no exterior or cabin components. "Nothing that you can see or touch will be common," says Ford's president, Jac Nasser. "The common componentry is all invisible. They also feel completely different to drive." Although the suspension and engine are shared, they are tuned differently. Both cars use aluminium suspension and use a new Ford five-speed electronic automatic gearbox.

The Lincoln LS6 in effect replaces the V6 version of the old Scorpio and should sell in the UK for about pounds 25,000. The LS8 will cost about pounds 28,000 and will be the cheapest luxury V8 car sold in Europe. Equipment levels will be impressively high, and the car will be sold on its roominess, comfort and value for money. "The goal is to compete with BMW and Mercedes, and to do that, the LS has to be as good as those cars. We're confident that it is," says Nasser.

Scorpio production ceases in July. Last year, only 20,000 were made - less than a tenth of the production volume obtained by class rivalling models made by BMW and Mercedes.

Ford reckons the mass-market name (Ford) is a serious turn-off to those sporting Mercedes-type money, and is gambling that the Lincoln moniker will have more kudos. It will certainly have more exclusivity. Ford expects to sell only about 20,000 LSs a year in Europe. America will be by far the biggest market.

The hideous styling of the Scorpio was another major sales turn-off. The Lincoln is a far more conservative-looking thing. Apart from its bulk - it is more than 16ft long - and its BMW-copy nose, it is discreetly anonymous. Britain and Germany, so Ford expects, are likely to be the two biggest European markets.