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More Than a Label: Lincoln Ready To Deliver Black Label Service

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 11/17/2014 Scott Burgess

Luxury is the new black for Lincoln. Well, actually, it’s the new Black Label program that Lincoln wants people to see as luxurious, and Lincoln will be talking a lot about the program this week at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Black Label is not to be confused with the Mercedes-Benz Black Series, a lineup of uber-performance vehicles. It should also not be confused with Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label, the highest-end Scotch Johnnie Walker produces. No, for Lincoln, a new standard of customer service will be wrapped and packaged under the Black Label. Think of it as the way many people think they should be treated when plunking down more than $40,000 for a car or crossover.

2015 Lincoln Black Label© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Lincoln Black Label While skeptical of the initiative a year ago when Lincoln introduced the world the concept at Pebble Beach, I’m starting to understand why Lincoln created this program, which will add another $6,000 to a vehicle’s price tag. It’s a story behind buying your car that you share with a friend over dinner.

“Oh, I didn’t even go to the dealership,” you can say as you cut into your medium rare free-range grass-fed steak. “They brought samples and swatches to my house, and when I did arrive at the Lincoln dealership, I sipped espressos while the dealer had my car detailed. And I hope you’re enjoying tonight’s dinner. The menu was created exclusively for people like me. You know, on the list. The Black Label list.”

2015 Lincoln Black Label© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Lincoln Black Label None of that would be a lie. In fact, Lincoln hopes to find more ways for its owners to act more pretentious than Lexus owners. That’s not a bad thing, especially for Lincoln owners, who have not had a lot to brag about in recent years.

Lincoln has created a slew of perks under its Black Label such as annual detailing, free car washes, and all maintenance services provided free for four years, including a free loaner car if needed. Home pickup and delivery services are also free. And there are perks such as the Culinary Collection membership, which provides a national list of restaurants that provide an “at your service dining experience” for Black Label customers.

Last week, Lincoln invited Motor Trend to a Detroit-based Lincoln dealer to provide a small taste of the Black Label experience. Tucked in the back of the dealership was the Black Label room: frosted glass doors, big leather chairs, one wall wood and another covered in cloth. It was contemporary but modern, like a high-tech company’s office space. A large flat-screen television sat on a credenza ready to display photos, videos, and other items found on a nearby iPad.

A credenza drawer held all the samples from the Indulgence Black Label package. There were paint samples, leather samples, and interior pieces. It’s like an interior decorator has arrived to seek final approval before redoing the kitchen.

There are currently four types of Black Label packages. Indulgence, Center Stage, Oasis, and Modern Heritage. The names may sound a touch over the top, but -- and this is important -- the final versions of these check-all-the-boxes interiors are extremely nice. The Venetian leather seats are warm and welcoming. (Lincoln says the leather quality is so good that only 1 percent of the leather currently used in cars today would meet its standards.) The wood trim is modern and interesting, hot or cold depending upon your choice. The Alcantara roof liners are that added bit of luxury that will impress any passenger. Throughout the vehicles, the combination of excellent materials and a sense of craftsmanship is noticeable and appealing. These are well-done cars. The interiors provide the meat behind promise.

2015 Lincoln Black Label© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Lincoln Black Label The exteriors arrive with exclusive paint colors, exclusive aluminum wheels, and the subtlest of Black Label badging. The vehicle’s letter designation, currently either Z or C, is in black. It’s a classy touch and something future Black Label owners will always point out to their friends.

Feel like a snob yet? Well, Black Label was created to provide you with that extra bit of ammunition to showcase your entitlement and exclusivity. It’s ingenious but not entirely original. Lexus and Acura have been building similar concierge-type programs. Lincoln, however, may have just launched a better mousetrap.

The problem, of course, is that only two vehicles out of Lincoln’s lineup will offer a Black Label edition: the MKZ and MKC. The recently launched Navigator was not ready to carry the moniker but will in the future. In fact, as Lincoln rolls out new models, it will include Black Label models, though the versions may change with names and additions. Similarly, Lincoln will continue to test and change the features and services Black Label offers depending upon customer feedback.

2015 Lincoln Black Label© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Lincoln Black Label 2015 Lincoln Black Label© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Lincoln Black Label The biggest problem may be that Lincoln hasn’t had the traffic other premium and luxury carmakers get. For years, its lackluster lineup alienated customers, who turned to better-made, more luxurious offerings. Eternally optimistic, Lincoln says that is beginning to change. Through October, its sales are above the industry average and were up 25 percent in October. Much of the volume increase can be tied to the September launch of the MKC, an all-new vehicle in Lincoln’s lineup.

But those increases can also be attributed to Lincoln getting more of its act together. The MKC is a competitive luxury crossover, outselling its BMW and Mercedes counterparts in October. Black Label will help good vehicles, but it won’t improve poor ones. Lipstick on a bumper is just that, so I applaud Lincoln’s decision to only offer the Black Label package on new vehicles.

The program officially launches in December at 32 dealerships in six states: California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. It will cost an additional $5,995. Lincoln plans to expand the program to other states next year, as well as introduce a similar program, called Presidential, in China next year. All told, Lincoln has 909 dealerships, and roughly 15 percent will be Black Label-certified.Dealers must apply to be certified and undergo additional training, including hospitality training from a former chef. (My tip: Pick up from the right, put down from the left.)

But the most important change the Black Label brings to Lincoln is in attitude. Moving metal is important, but so is how you move it. The best way to get people to not only come back for future vehicles but also to brag about it to their friends might just be by making them feel like a million bucks while only spending $50,000. 2015 Lincoln Black Label© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Lincoln Black Label 2015 Lincoln Black Label© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Lincoln Black Label

2015 Lincoln Black Label

2015 Lincoln Black Label
© Provided by MotorTrend
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