Sometimes being the first-est with the most-est can be a real boon. In the case of the Lincoln Navigator, being first to market gave it a wide-open field in which to run. And yes, Lincoln took full advantage of it. America’s first full-size luxury suv, the 1998 Lincoln Navigator was a huge hit the minute its tires touched the street.
Embraced immediately by the faction of American culture which establishes trends and tells the rest of the country what has that difficult to define cool factor (and what does not) the crowd that loves things that go bling, christened the Navigator as the luxury SUV of choice — for a while.
Then Cadillac introduced the Escalade — and all of that changed.
What was once the ride to have suddenly became yesterday’s news. Over the ensuing years, Lincoln has tried hard to reinvigorate the Navigator in an effort to make it THE one again, but as anyone who follows fashion knows, fads fade. That bold plaid suit with the five-inch lapels that looked so good last year, looks like a clown suit this year.
That said, the Navigator’s first full year of sales (1998) was its best year at just under 45,000 units sold. Cadillac introduced the Escalade in 1999, but everyone saw that first Escalade for what it was, a warmed-over GMC Yukon Denali. And so they stuck with the Navigator for another couple of years. When Cadillac introduced the refreshed Escalade in 2001, it just barely edged the Navigator out in sales by just under a hundred units.
But that was the turning point.
Momentum shifted in favor of the Cadillac.
By 2010, Navigator sales barely approached 8,300 units, while Escalade sales totaled nearly 27,000. With the fervor over SUVs fading of late, even the Escalade has seen a significant dip in sales. Odds are the Navigator will never see 40,000 units a year again.
The King is dead — long live the King.
However that doesn’t mean the Navigator is wack. In fact, driving a Navigator these days lends one something of an air of exclusivity; you don’t see a new Navigator on the road everyday.
There have been three generations of the Lincoln Navigator offered since the model was launched in August of 1997, as a 1998 model.