Over the last two years, attacking Lincoln has become tremendously “in.” This is because doing so will cause everyone to agree with you, which is sort of like when people complain about drivers in their hometown. Seriously: no matter what major city you visit, the drivers there are “the worst,” according to local residents who have obviously never visited Italy.
The latest industry observer to attack Lincoln is David Kiley, who wrote an editorial yesterday for Autoblog entitled “Lincoln needs a farewell address, not a new marketing plan.” This received a generally warm welcome, which mirrors the one Kiley will get in tomorrow’s Detroit Free Press for writing an op-ed piece called “Detroit Drivers Are The Worst.” The latter story would probably win him a Pulitzer, except the committee is in New York and they are absolutely certain Manhattan drivers are the worst.
The only problem is that all of the Lincoln doubters are wrong.
Before you say it, I’m well aware of what you’re thinking: I must be crazy. Regular readers already know this to be true, since I owned a Range Rover Classic. But for those who need more proof, here it is: I have absolutely no idea how Lincoln will come back. I won’t lay out a marketing plan as Kiley did, despite announcing in his title that Lincoln doesn’t need one. I just know they will.
How Do I Know?
To me, there’s one clear reason Lincoln can revive itself: it’s been done before with much less.
Take Porsche, for example. Many of you are aware I once worked for Porsche, though my former superiors may object to my use of the term “work.” Either way, I woke up every morning and drove to the office. Twenty years ago, Porsche’s lineup was about as stale as Lincolns. Back then, Porsche offered three vehicles; the 928, which came out in 1977, was the newest. They sold as many cars in 1993 as they do now in a good month. The best car they were building had a Mercedes-Benz badge on it. And the window stickers were hand-written by someone who majored in calligraphy. (OK, some of this may be slightly inaccurate.)
Of course, the David Kileys of the time probably wrote Porsche off. I don’t have access to any of these articles, but I bet they had headlines like: “Porsche Needs a Farewell Address, and Stuttgart Drivers Are The Worst.”
Audi is the same way. In the early 1990s, Audi had precisely one reputation: the brand that wasn’t quite as good as BMW at anything except making cars that accelerated when you pushed the brake pedal. But in 1996, Audi rolled out the A4 – and just ten years later, everyone who was formerly not using the turn signal in a BMW was now not using the turn signal in an Audi.
Of course, Audi and Porsche are just small-time German car companies now joined at the hip by the automotive equivalent to Napoleon. How are they relevant to Lincoln?
Fine. Forget Audi and Porsche. It’s coincidental that the subject of Lincoln comes up (not really, I brought it up) since just yesterday I posted a review of my former 2004 Cadillac CTS-V. In it, I made the point that the CTS was Cadillac’s first real post-Escalade attempt to turn the brand around. Following the CTS came dozens of other efforts, some of which were good (ATS, SRX) and some of which were quite awful (DTS, that Escalade pickup thing). But by now, everyone agrees Cadillac has enjoyed a complete rebirth from a hole of obscurity they were facing just seven years before the CTS came out, when their flagship was the vinyl-roofed Fleetwood Brougham.
Back to Lincoln
Two things set Lincoln apart from Porsche, Audi, and even Cadillac. One is, very obviously, money. Lincoln has it. We know this because Lincoln is part of the Ford Motor Company, who awards Alan Mulally an eight-figure bonus every time he tells that joke about how the company’s been going out of business for 40 years.
The other thing is even more obvious: talent. Lincoln has that, too. Mulally may earn big bucks, but it’s because he and his staff have already done the impossible once before. These are the people who orchestrated Ford’s transformation from automotive obscurity to a constant front-runner. Except, of course, in the hallowed “outdated, large rear-wheel drive sedan” segment. Sorry, TTAC.
Those who complain about Lincoln’s current lineup are too shortsighted to see the brand’s limitless possibilities. Surely, there were doubters when Porsche launched the Boxster; when Audi debuted the A4; when Cadillac came out with the CTS. And I bet we don’t have to dig very deeply to find articles labeling Ford “dead and buried” when their best car was a full-size sedan called the Five Hundred. But every one of those brands proved the pundits wrong. So will Lincoln.
No, I have no idea how Ford will revive Lincoln, and I’m not going to provide suggestions. Because considering the wonders they’ve worked with Ford, Mulally and crew don’t need my input. They just need to work hard, and do their best to avoid those awful Dearborn drivers. Really, they’re the worst.
Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.