It's a storied American automotive brand, but in recent years, Lincoln, the luxury arm of the Ford Motor Company, has struggled. In an effort to turn the brand around, Ford relaunched Lincoln yesterday.

"The Lincoln brand of the Ford Motor Company today announced its intent to once again be a major competitor in the premium automotive marketplace," Ford says in a press release. "The company, introduced as The Lincoln Motor Company, unveiled its all-new MKZ midsize luxury sedan and a strategic plan to reinvent the premium automotive marketplace during a dazzling event at New York City’s iconic Lincoln Center Plaza."

The New York Times writes, "As recently as the 1990s, Lincoln was the top-selling luxury automotive brand in the United States. Its large Town Car sedan and hulking Navigator S.U.V. defined the brand, and sales topped more than 230,000 vehicles a year." However, through October of this year, Lincoln only sold 69,000 vehicles and is the eighth-ranked luxury brand in the U.S., The New York Times reports.

As part of the relaunch, Lincoln was rechristened The Lincoln Motor Company. "The name harks back to the 1920s, when Ford acquired the brand, and when it carried far more clout than it does today," says The Wall Street Journal. The changes don't stop at the brand name. The Lincoln Motor Company will air a Super Bowl commercial this year, launch new products and alter its customer experience. 

The first new product is the Lincoln MKZ sedan. The Associated Press reports that it is the first of seven new Lincoln models expected by 2015. "The MKZ, which was unveiled in concept form at the Detroit Auto Show last January, is longer and wider than the current version. It starts at $35,925, or about the same as its archrival, the Lexus ES 350. A hybrid version is the same price."

Buyers of the new MKZ will get a lot more than the typical luxury car buying experience. "Every customer who reserves an MKZ, for example, will be presented with an elegant gift upon receiving the car,” reports The New York Times. “Choices include a selection of wines and Champagne, custom-made jewelry or sunglasses, or a one-night stay at a Ritz-Carlton hotel."

Analysts are cautious about what the long-term effect of the changes might be. Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell says, "The challenge for a struggling luxury maker like Lincoln is clear: with mainstream designs improving so dramatically - Fusion, Elantra, Santa Fe are some examples - how far do luxury brands have to push the boundaries of design to distinguish themselves?"  

Other analysts say that a name change and a Super Bowl ad are all well and good, but unless Lincoln delivers significantly improved cars, sales won't grow. In the four categories that Lincoln models compete in our rankings, no model ranks higher than number 10.

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