With half of 2013 already in the books, things aren’t looking great for Lincoln as the brand’s current year-to-date sales tally of 38,288 units is an 8.8% decline compared to last year.  Every single vehicle that Lincoln produces is currently depressed compared to their respective position last year.

Out of Lincoln’s entire model line-up, sales of the MKS have slid the most.  Sales of the flagship sedan fell by 24.9% over the first half of this year, and there is nothing to suggest a turnaround over the remaining months of 2013.  Things haven’t fared much better for the rest of Lincoln’s lineup either as MKT sales have dropped by 10.7%, followed by the MKX with a 6.3% decline, and the Navigator with a slight 0.7% slip compared to last year.

The question on everyone’s mind is how are sales of the brand’s self-declared savior MKZ going?  Well, the reality is that the answer is a bit complicated. Through the first six months of the year, sales are down by 0.7%, although this decline is due mainly to the botched launch of the hyped redesigned model.

Ford injected Lincoln with a mountain of cash in its efforts to market the new MKZ and everything was in place to assure a successful launch, but Lincoln dropped the ball and severely missed the promised dealer delivery date of December 2012 due to quality control inspections, in addition to sharing the same overworked assembly plant that produces the super-successful Ford Fusion.  Months passed while the ads continued, yet there were still no MKZs. Ultimately, the hype silenced and the brand suffered.

Despite the initial MKZ launch flop and depressed sales over Q1 2013, things have started to turn around for Lincoln as over the course of the past three months, sales have actually improved by 6.0% relative to Q2 2012.  The lift observed in Q2 sales is almost entirely because of a 43.2% spike in MKZ new deliveries, although Navigator sales also improved by 15.1%, but sales volume of the archaic SUV was barely perceptible compared to the gains made by the MKZ.

Rental fleet penetration for Lincoln has also jumped by roughly two percentage points, totaling 12% of total registrations through the first five months of 2013.  According to Experian Automotive registration data, of Lincoln’s 25k total reported registrations this year, 3,008 units have been delivered to rental fleet companies.  During the same period in 2012, Lincoln reported over 34k total registrations, with 3,473 units going straight into rental fleet duty, for a rate of 10%.

Another question on people’s minds is exactly how many MKZ’s have been sent into rental fleet duty through the first five months of this year?  So far, of the slightly more than 9k MKZ registrations, 1,388 have been to rental fleet companies.  This is a four point gain over what was recorded during the same period last year, or roughly 14% of total 2013 Lincoln registrations.

At this point the near term success or failure of Lincoln rides heavily on the strength of near term MKZ sales, an extremely heavy burden for any one model to carry.  In order for Lincoln as a brand to accomplish its turnaround they need to focus on timely new model deliveries and offer a truly exceptional new vehicle lineup, in this case sooner rather than later.