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Lincoln's $50 K Pickup


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LINCOLN'S $50K PICKUP

Ford has a better idea (maybe): A luxury truck

Lincoln, the luxury car line once believed to be sailing into the sunset, is finding new life by redefining the land yacht. Its sales have soared 48% in the 1998 model year thanks to its new Navigator sport-utility vehicle. Now Ford Motor Co. believes it has an even better idea: a Lincoln luxury pickup truck.

Ford is developing a $45,000-to-$50,000 pickup it calls the Lincoln Blackwood, say sources close to the company. Aimed at the horsey set, it combines the Navigator's chrome-grille with a short, black-varnished wood truck bed. The four-door passenger area looks like the Ford pickup, but with a leather-and-burled-walnut interior.

A company official confirmed a Lincoln pickup prototype was developed, but declined to say if it will actually be sold. But sources familiar with Ford's plans say the Blackwood has high-level support in the company and could hit showrooms in 1999. The truck's niche would likely net fewer than 10,000 sales a year but would haul in profits similar to the Navigator's $15,000 gross margin.

Still, observers say the Blackwood is proof Detroit has gone overboard. And they fear it will distract from the $30,500 Lincoln LS sporty sedan being unveiled Apr. 7. Gripes one Lincoln dealer: "Navigator elevated the brand and, in one fell swoop, this will make it a Jay Leno punchline."

Lincoln officials contend they need to take chances--as they did on the Navigator. "Each risk that pays off leads to even more successful risk-taking," says James G. O'Connor, vice-president of the Lincoln-Mercury Div. But will the Blackwood prove worth the risk?By Keith Naughton in Detroit


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