Concept cars are a way for manufacturers to take the temperature of the buying public. Lincoln has said it expects half of the cars it sells to be electric by 2026 — that’s just 4 short years from now. If there is a Lincoln EV in your future, it may look something like the Star Concept the company unveiled this week.
Cars are not about driving anymore. Instead, they are places to enjoy a soothing, immersive experience while wafting from place to place. Nothing illustrates that trend clearer than the Lincoln Star Concept. CNBC reports that Joy Falotico, president of the Lincoln division, said in a press release, “As Lincoln enters the next chapter in our transition to a zero emissions future, the Lincoln Star Concept will lead the way for our portfolio of fully electric vehicles. It is an excellent example of how we are redefining luxury for the next generation as we work to transform the vehicle into a third space — a true place of sanctuary — for our clients.”
Car companies used to describe buyers of their vehicles as customers. Now they are clients. It is a distinction that will have important ramifications for vehicle owners in the future. The Star Concept has a stowaway steering wheel and front seats that pivot to face the rear. The Verge reports the cabin offers three distinctive ambiance settings that combine lights, sounds, and a variety aromas to soothe and comfort the lucky few who get to take this magic carpet ride. Here’s how Lincoln describes this exercise in scintillating sybaritic repose:
“Coastal Morning uses gentle, oceanic sounds, a fragrance of sea mist and the soft, warm glow of the sun with dynamic lighting throughout to replicate a stroll on the beach at sunrise.
“Mindful Vitality is meant to re-energize the senses, with invigorating, upbeat audio, dynamic abstract artwork, soft, glowing lighting and a flowery fragrance throughout.
“Evening Chill mirrors dusk using a calming night soundtrack coordinated with night sky video and an evergreen fragrance.”
We sincerely hope someone or something will be watching the road ahead while all this sensual pleasuring is taking place!
“What a concept it is! Carriage doors, a frunk that extends out like a drawer for added storage, a full-suite of sensory interior moods, and a sleek, aerodynamic profile that feels more Faraday Future than Ford,” exclaims The Verge. “The Lincoln Star Concept is designed to be ‘the ultimate sanctuary’ for wealthy elites who prefer to be chauffeured through the teaming megalopolises of the future.”
Clearly we won’t drive cars in the future, cars will drive us. Is that Donald Fagen’s voice I hear? “What a beautiful world this will be. What a glorious time to be free.”
The list of goodies, gimcracks, and geegaws included in the Star Concept would fill a small library. For some unknown reason, the electrochromatic glass that covers the frunk becomes transparent while driving, so if you happen to be facing forward rather than sharing spirited conversation with friends in the rear, you will be able to see the valuables you stowed there as you drive. Why anyone would feel the need to do that is not explained in the Lincoln press release.
This is no ordinary frunk, either. It pulls out like a drawer so you can easily load your stuff more easily. Lincoln’s parent, Ford Motor Company, is head over heels in love with the frunk idea and has made it one of the prominent features of its upcoming F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck.
Engadget informs its readers that the A pillars and D pillars use 3D printed metal to allow more natural light into the cabin, which features lounge-like wraparound rear seating to promote relaxation — a design element that harks back to certain Thunderbird models from the ’60s.
In-cabin tech plays an important role, of course. A giant, panoramic front display provides both the essentials as well as a canvas for those moods, with a much smaller control screen sitting underneath. Rear passengers have their own displays. An “Attaché” briefcase concept hiding in the rear coach door can wirelessly charge and store devices. The Star connects to other vehicles and city grids, and promises driving assistance to help with parking and other situations where vision is an issue.
A New Design Language
Lincoln says it will have 3 new electric vehicles for sale by 2025, with a fourth arriving in 2026. More than anything else, the Lincoln Star Concept is intended to familiarize prospective customers with the new design language that will be incorporated into those new models. The speculation is that there will be electric alternatives to the Lincoln Corsair, Nautilus, and Aviator models in showrooms today.
There may even be an all new battery-electric Navigator based on the upcoming Ford F-150 Lightning platform, which could be FoMoCo’s answer to the Hummer EV from General Motors. The Verge says there may be a crossover version of the popular Ford Mustang Mach-E somewhere in the company’s plans as well.
Lincoln says it expects half the cars it sells will be EVs by the middle of this decade and intends to sell only battery-electric cars by the time 2030 rolls around. Sales have been strong lately. It recently reported its best annual global sales in 21 years, up 7% over 2021. The company says it plans to “build on its momentum with the recent launches of the all new Zephyr in China and the new Navigator in North America.”
There is something disquieting about all this focus on building transportation cocoons today instead of cars. Not the least of those concerns for owners is how much of this new geewizardy will be subscription based? Car companies have stars in their eyes when they dream about how much money there is to be made from services that drivers can activate via over-the-air updates.
The second level to that scenario is, those amenities do not necessarily follow the car when it is sold at some point down the road. If selling an upgrade once is profitable, selling it two or three times will be even more lucrative.
Finally, there is a lesson that applies to all human activity, which author Neil Postman explained in his seminal book, Amusing Ourselves To Death. His thesis is that the contemporary world is better reflected by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, whose public was oppressed by their addiction to amusement, rather than by George Orwell’s 1984, where they were oppressed by state control.
The lesson, when it comes to automobiles that coddle and cuddle us with endless attention, is this: Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. There is a world of difference between a car we drive and a car that drives us. Some may not be all that delighted with the onrushing brave new world of motorized transportation devices.