While not a uniquely American practice, “badge engineering” has been particularly prevalent among U.S. based manufacturers over the years. Sometimes it’s successful, other times it’s a disaster. As an example, all attempts to make a smaller Cadillac, based on more prosaic Chevrolet models have been significantly questionable.
The whole idea predicates upon consumers’ desires to have a prestigious logo on their car key when they drop it on a bar. After all, when everybody saw the Cadillac crest on your key, they didn’t really ask which one you had. It was only when you were seen getting in or out of the Chevrolet Cavalier-based Cadillac Cimarron that people realized you went and got the wack Caddy.
In the case of Ford and Lincoln, it can be successfully argued that after so many years of neglect, expectations for Lincoln cars aren’t really that high to begin with. So when you see the profile of the Ford Fusion with Lincoln’s four-pointed star on its flanks, you don’t really have the same gag reflex you’d get from seeing, say, the Chevy Cruze’s profile with a Cadillac crest on its fenders.
Because of this, the Lincoln MKZ (also known as the Lincoln Zephyr — more on that particular aberration below) has been comparatively well received. Of course, being based as it is on a pretty good handling and comfortably riding Mazda platform does a whole lot to keep people looking upon it with favor.
First shown at the New York Auto Show as the Lincoln Zephyr concept in 2004, the mid-sized Lincoln was initially offered as a production model in 2006, and called the Lincoln Zephyr. When the fine marketing minds at Ford decreed the Lincoln brand would perhaps have more cachet if it followed the European model of alphanumeric model nomenclature, the Zephyr name, it’s 70 years of heritage notwithstanding, was shoved out of Ford’s corporate jet sans parachute, and an MKZ badge was affixed to the Lincoln’s rump.
Aside from the name change, there has been but one significant reworking of the model since it debuted in 2006.