By on September 30, 2010

When Alan Mulally took over at Ford and sold off Jaguar and Volvo, a few people (me included) wondered as follows:

Having “Ford” as a global brand is well enough, but how will they compete in the more profitable luxury market?

Now some might point to Euro Fords having a more luxurious feel than other cars and to a degree, that’s true. However, I can’t see people ditching their Mercedes-Benzes and Lexuses for a Ford. Well, it seems that the answer to this question was right under our noses all along.

Reuters reports that Lincoln may be taken global within five years once it’s turned itself around in North America. Now, I bet you think that some “source” who didn’t want to be named said this. Nope. It was Mulally himself.

“Our primary focus is going to be the United States, as well you know, but I have been looking at and driving the new Lincoln line up and they are fantastic, ” said Mr Mulally at the Paris Auto Show, “I can imagine that after we have re-established the luxury brand Lincoln in the United States that there is going to be a lot of customer demand to move those vehicles around the world.”

Well, if Alan Mulally is reading this, may I suggest exercising extreme caution? Just because a brand sells in the good ol’ US of A, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll translate around the world. Want some proof? Ask GM how well Cadillac did in Europe.

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54 Comments on “(Not So) Wild Ass Rumor Of The Day: Lincoln To Go Global?...”


  • avatar
    John R

    Or how much of a relative hard time Lexus is having right now.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      I am constantly amazed at how often TTAC rolls out the phrase “Mercedes or Lexus” as if there is some sort of definitive equivalence there (marketing campaigns notwithstanding). And yet, bizarrely, the other faux-luxe Japanese rebranding exercise (Infiniti) never warrants a mention, even though they’re as aggressively mediocre as any Lexus-badged ‘yota.
       
      I wonder if the Toyota Kool-Aid is grape or lime flavored?

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    With the exception of the “crossovers” I actually like Lincoln’s lineup.  But I think to really take off they’re going to have to differentiate further.  Their need to be exclusive engines or features that you can only get on a Lincoln to make people aspire to it.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I like the new Lincoln look (except for the MKT), but I test drove an MKZ this summer at the Carlisle All-Ford Nationals, and there was no way that this car was worth the $41,000 sticker price. It wasn’t a bad car, but I really didn’t see any reason to buy it instead of a Fusion.

      At least there was a big difference between the LaCrosse and the Malibu I test drove at the Carlisle All-GM Nationals a few weeks later, even if the Malibu struck me as inferior to the Fusion. The LaCrosse, however, was definitely a step above the MKZ.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Cadillac doesn’t even sell all that well here, and it is barely considered to be more than a curiosity in Europe.

    Having goals is always a good thing, but Ford needs to walk before it can run. Lincoln is just about off the radar in its HOME market, so making plans to sell it around the world is a bit premature at this point.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      I don’t have numbers in front of me, so I’m going from personal experience, but I’d say Caddy and Lincoln are fairly popular here, consider they’re sub-brands of larger companies.
       
      Just from my own observations, Lincoln and Caddy’s newer models are far more popular than Buick, and GM successfully reinvented Buick overseas (esp China). Never say never.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Caddy moves roughly twice the metal that Lincoln does, and Buick routinely outsells/outsold Mercury. Combined L-M sales are roughly comparable to Buick or Caddy alone.

      Caddy sells pretty darn well, given that only Lexus, Benz & BMW brands do better. Acura, Audi, Infiniti all move less metal.

      Lincoln has their work cut out for themselves.

  • avatar
    PaulieWalnut

    He specifically mentioned the ‘Asia-Pacific region’ when talking about going global. I read that to mean they’re going to China in 5 years time, not Europe.

  • avatar
    aspade

    Lincoln sold 6,400 cars in August.
    Buick sold 14,300.
     
    Edit: should have been a reply 2 posts up.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    There is the little matter of the stretch limo business. I have travelled around the world and the  default white stretch limo in many, many markets is the good ole Lincoln Town Car.  Pretty good reason to come up with a rear-drive Panther replacement, one would think…

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      The default black stretch limo in many, many markets is a blinged out Hummer which shows why it is a bad market to have.
      ps. In many markets a streched limo doesn’t express luxury but decadence which makes the un-stretched a hard sell in the business world

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Stretch limos are not luxury vehicles. They’re oversized taxicabs and/or shorter (lower) shuttle buses. Real limousines have their back seats behind the doors, not beside them. And they don’t offer longitudnal seating either.l

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    The Lincoln-Mercury business plan is (and has been for decades) taking Fords and adding length, more chrome, and features.  Any deviation from this will be a money loser.  To take on BMW and MB car-for-car would require an investment of tens of billions of dollars over a decade with no guarantee of success.  Just not worth the risk.  Selling the current Lincolns in China as a Buick alternative seems like a better bet.

  • avatar
    britnusa

    There is a yawning chasm between what is considered to be an attractive car in Europe and the US.

    IMHO American cars are freakishly ugly and there is no way I would ever own one. BUT…I’m English, I love Rally form factor cars and compact, powerful hatches that could haul junk and make windy roads heaven were what I grew up with.

    My wife is American and is a great fan of muscle and loves Challengers, ‘Cudas et al and finds European cars rather quaint.

    Mulally had better be damn sure he knows who he is selling to

  • avatar

    Do not assume that “global” means a focus on Europe. The example of Buick in China has not been lost on Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      AlmostThere

      Bullseye! It’ll be stupid to even start with Europe, while Asia, esp China has much bigger market for foreign luxury cars. and the RMB is appreciating which helps with the Export.

  • avatar

    The only Lincoln that people care about around the world is the Town Car. Pushing Lincoln globally didn’t work with the LS, and Jaguar/Volvo didn’t exactly scale very well either.  What on earth is in the product pipeline to make Mulally so bold?
    Ecoboost Mustang sedans with big grilles and livery worthy suspensions?
    Speaking of, has he sold that LS430 for an MKS yet?

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      What on earth is in the product pipeline to make Mulally so bold?
       
      Lincoln has a fancy new tagline…ready…here it is:
       
      “Smarter than Luxury”
       
      Yes….I’m actually serious…that is Lincoln’s new tag line.  Is it April 1st?
      http://www.freep.com/article/20100930/BUSINESS0102/100930027/1319/Lincolns-new-tag-line-Smarter-than-luxury

    • 0 avatar

      WOW!  That was positively Epic. Epic Fail more than anything else, but still Epic.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      “Smarter than Luxury”? That’s the best that Lincoln could come up with?

      And the concept is that they’re a “value” “luxury” brand? Chevy is value. Buick is luxury. The two don’t mix. “Value luxury” is Hyundai or a Toyota LE/XLE.

      If this is Lincoln’s marketing, they might as well fold the entire division down, because it’s completely the wrong message if they have global aspirations.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      That is positively the worst tagline I’ve heard in a long time. It doesn’t even make much sense. Buick’s ‘The new class of world class’ sounds good, makes a point, and above all makes sense.
      But ‘Smarter than Luxury’? I mean WTF? What munchkin did they pay to come up with that crap? And who approved it? What’s Ford’s next tagline? ‘Dumber than Utilitarian’?

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Lincoln is a laughing stock when compared to Buick…let alone the world stage.
     
    As long as Ford has ANY PART in Lincoln…it will be a mediocre “near-luxury” brand.  Tarted up Ford’s with severely inflated sticker prices will not sell here (as the monthly sales numbers prove all the time) and will not sell on the world stage.

    • 0 avatar
      wallstreet

      As I’m reading the thread, I start to wonder why hasn’t Z71_Silvy pop up yet? Boom ! There you are trashing the blue oval. That’s classic.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Yeah but in this case he’s pretty much right.

    • 0 avatar
      Gregg

      Yeah, the “blind squirrel” joke personified.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      As I’m reading the thread, I start to wonder why hasn’t Z71_Silvy pop up yet? Boom ! There you are

       
      You’re right…when the truth needs to be told…BOOM…there I am.
       
      But seriously…take the Ford sticker off the Taurus and the Lincoln sticker off the MKS…Is the MKS really worth the $10K-15K difference in price?
       
      Same thing with the Edge/MKX.  Is the MKX worth $10K more than the Edge?
      Is the MKZ worth $10-$15K more than the Fusion
      Is the Navigator worth $15-$20K more than the Expedition?
      Is the MKT worth $10-$15K more than the Flex?
       
      Are you really getting a vehicle that is better than their lowly Ford counterparts?  Hell no you aren’t.  In fact…Lincoln should have the Fords prices.  Then Lincolns would be worth what’s being charged for them…and the Fords would subsequently lower as well…bringing their prices down to a reasonable level.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    If the time frame is 5 years then Mulally is talking about the Lincoln vehicles that are in the design studio right now.  It’s possible that they are that good.  5 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to say that with a straight face.

    • 0 avatar
      Tstag

      If Ford really wanted a global premium brand then it should have kept JLR. Because Lincoln will always fail in Europe. Look at Cadillac they make half decent cars and sold 0 cars in Britain last month (and yes they did try selling them).
      The may sell in Asia but even there I have some doubts.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Lincoln won’t sell well anywhere until they drop the Acura/Cadillac practice of naming their models with spoonsful of alphabet soup.  Put names on the models people can remember – isn’t that why the 500 was renamed the Taurus? Ford also needs to learn from its past styling success.
     
    The stretched Taurus-based Continental was a big seller, despite FWD and a weak engine. There were limits to what could be done, so the added classic lux-car cues and sheet metal creases were understated. More effort than usual was put into differentiating from the Taurus interior, where people spend most of their time and develop long-term impressions. When the new Contental came out with its clean-sheet swoop stripped of the classic cues, sales flopped despite a  better engine, suspension and chassis.
     
    Ford needs to re-learn that Luxury is more about perception and play to it.

    • 0 avatar
      basho

      The Continental was a lot of things…but having a weak engine is not one of them.  They have a transversely mounted 4.6 DOHC engine with 275 hp.  And that was in 1999!  That is a reasonable horsepower figure even by today’s standards 11 years later.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Ford blew it when they named a car the “500″. If they listened to anyone who cared, it should have been named “Galaxie 500″. Now they would have had something. How long has the “Camry”, “Accord”, “Impala”, “Malibu” model names been around? Name recognition still means something, not too many alpha-numerics. “Taurus” never meant anything to me, as I am not a Ford fan, but it did have name recognition.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      The V8 came in with the jelly bean reskin in 1995.   The 88-94 car that still looked like a Lincoln had the same garbage 3.8 V6 that was in the Taurus.

    • 0 avatar
      npbheights

      It was never called the “500″.  It was “Five Hundred” Spelled out.  It was an “F” name, just like Focus, Fusion, Flex, Freestyle, Freestar, F-Series.  I think they thought the double consonants sounded strong or something.  Then the SUV’s and Vans had to be “E” for some reason E-Series, Escape, Explorer, Edge, Expedition, Excursion.  Dont get me on Mercury – Montego, Milan, Mariner, Marquis.  Kinda surprised they didn’t flip the Mustang to Mercury.   “Mercury Mustang”  Then Lincolns had to start with M too.. MKX, MKZ, MKT, MKS…. Must be because its the “Lincoln-Mercury Division” A combined “Division”, how does that make sense?
      I’m done.

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    Lincoln doesn’t have to peer into the future or wait five years for a design that can save the brand and move it forward on the international stage in the premier luxury category. This is the car that can do it, it had its debut at Auto Shows in 2002, and they need to build it now.
    http://www.carstyling.ru/en/cars.2002_Lincoln_Continental.html

    • 0 avatar

      We’ve been waiting for the production version of that car for years, and that would be the car to get Lincoln known around the world.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Wow.  That’s a Lincoln.  Might not go over in Europe, but China would eat it up.  And that’s where the real money is these days.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      To be honest, while it’s good that it’s not a rebadged Ford, it’s very much in the same theme as the Chrysler 300, and only really for America. Not such a particularly good direction for Lincoln.

      If Lincoln comes back, they need something bold and distinctive, which is a problem because Lincoln has always seemed to ape other companies design. Caddy tailfins, or Rolls grilles come immediately to mind.

      I guess, if Lincoln is going to copy anybody, they might as well copy Bentley – it’ll seem fresher than copying Rolls, and they might be able to do something with it. Also, keep the Opera windows as a signature element.

    • 0 avatar
      benzaholic

      Hubba hubba!
      Plop that body on the Taurus/500 platform, spend real money on the interior, and take over the world.
      It’s amazing how those simple body lines, when done well, really work.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Yup, that thing puts a woody in every gearhead’s shorts.

      Isn’t the 2002 Continental concept the very definition of a “halo” car? If FoMoCo built it in small numbers, with a killer powertrain, and sold it for a six figure sum, it would redefine Lincoln, almost overnight.

      Like almost everybody else, i bemoan the use of alpha-numeric generic names. Lincoln Continental, Mark series, Town Car, Zephyr all possess more of a cachet than the letter designations.

      Here’s some other beauties:

      http://cars.ign.com/articles/495/495039p1.html

      http://cars.ign.com/articles/753/753754p1.html

      http://www.shorey.net/auto/American/Ford/Concept%20Cars%20-%20Lincoln%20LSK.jpg

      http://www.topspeed.com/cars/lincoln/lincoln-navicross-concept-ar624.html

      http://www.shorey.net/auto/American/Ford/2001ford49conceptblack1024c.jpg

      And if I could locate ArtandColour’s website, he’s done some awesome Lincoln concepts.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d wager that it’s impossible to drop that on the Taurus/500 platform without ruining the long and sleek lines.  Ford needs a traditional car platform (firewall hard points) to make this one happen.

  • avatar
    rnc

    I don’t think it’s that complicated –

    Continental based on new SWB XJ platform (using boron steel instead of aluminum) and a Continiental 6.2L based on LWB.  (additionally new navigator based on same platform similar to how new explorer is based on taurus.)

    Arrow (bring back pierce/arrow) based on LWB falcon

    Mark IX based on SWB falcon (also new platform for mustang)

    Zepher – based on new fusion/mondeo platform with engine long. and awd.

    not complicated, ford has already developed all of the platforms and engines required.  Lincolns current line-up is nothing more than a holding pattern until such time that Ford could be fixed b/c without ford lincoln wouldn’t exist anyways, now that Ford is well on it’s way to health and the money sucking JLR/volvo brands have been jettisoned and those development $ can be focused solely on lincoln, I think they may blow us out of the water.

  • avatar

    China seems like an obvious market for Lincoln as-is.  The rest of the world not so much.

    Ford Australia themselves build a bonafide luxury car in the Falcon G6 and G6E.  They also had a fullsize luxury car in the Ford Fairlane but that was discontinued a few years ago. 

    Ford is missing an opportunity with their Australian arm that GM is leveraging.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Stick to China, Ford. Europe and the UK thought that Cadillac’s were laughable wobbly bloat-mobiles which offered nothing new; bar sub-par reliability. To break into those markets with another ‘luxury’ US car brand will be very tough. There will be a wall of skepticism a mile thick to break through before anyone would even consider buying one.
    Besides, the actual city of Lincoln in the UK is a bit of a dump, populated by cerebrally challenged locals and clueless students.

  • avatar
    AaronH

    Good news for luxury car buyers…You can get a 2 year old MKZ at half the price of new!
    Lincoln is a really bad joke in current form…It will take at least 5 years of improvements.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    Lincoln, in Europe? That whole show would be a bit of a dog’s dinner, don’t you bloody think?
    I don’t see why Ford wouldn’t try selling them in China and other select emerging markets.

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    Dont really know why this is so laughable. In five years Ford would have paid off most of its dept. I also believe that Ford is going to have a world class platform by then as well. No I dont have prof of this just something I believe.  They are going to spend the next four years developing a plan for this.  I also believe that the auto world will look alittle different then as well. Some major changes are going to happen.

  • avatar
    forraymond

    Crazy ass, GD Right winger Blanche Lincoln.  Kinda fits with all the straight, white, union-hating, middle class bashing folks on this site.
     
    Lincoln is not what they think it is.  There is nothing in their line-up that says world class luxury vehicle.  Lincoln, step up your game or shut the doors.  Period!

  • avatar
    forraymond

    Europeans buy small cars.  Lincoln does not have small cars.  Brazil and India buy small cars.  Unless Lincoln puts together a line-up that fits what the market wants and buys, they will fail.
     
    I’m sure Mulally is on top of the requirements to sell worldwide, but does not have the R&D $ to make it happen just yet.  They probably have everything developed on paper and are waiting for the cash to have the plans brought to life.  I wish them the best.
     
    Ford seems to be the cleanest car company at this point.

  • avatar

    >>>Educator(of teachers)Dan: Their need to be exclusive engines or features that you can only get on a Lincoln to make people aspire to it.
    Careful using that word, Aspire, around Fords

  • avatar
    amca

    If Lincoln did a great job of building a production version of that highly interesting C-Concept it showed last year . . . they’d have something nobody else has: luxury car space in a small car.  It’d be one of a kind.  It’d have no competition, and might be what Lincoln needs to break into the world’s consciousness.
     
    That, or it would be a desperate flop.  But I say it’s a chance worth taking.  The luxury car is likely to change.  This is a chance for Lincoln to lead the way.  Or not.

  • avatar
    mcs

    One of Lincolns biggest problems is the trend of offering luxury features on value brands. For example the MKZ offers 10-way heated/cooled power seats, but you can order 18 way heated/cooled seats on the 2011 Optima. The Optima offers heated rear seats, but they’re not listed for the MKZ. Check out http://www.kia.com/#/2011optima?pageId=features for the Optima options.
     
    To answer KIA, Ford will have to start offering the same options on the Fusion. When that happens, Lincoln then becomes a badge and grill option for Fords. I think a value brand content war is starting and Lincoln will be one of the first casualties.
     


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