In remarks with the Detroit News’ Karl Henkel, J Mays, Ford’s chief stylist and a senior vice president of the automaker, acknowledged that the Dearborn automaker’s Lincoln brand has lost cachet as a luxury brand and that it will take years to turn the brand around.
“No, we’re not true luxury. We’re in an investment stage with Lincoln. We’ve probably got a 10-year investment to make.”
Analysts echoed Mays’ remarks. Michelle Krebs at Edmunds called Lincoln “a wanna-be luxury brand”. Jim Hall, of 2953 Analytics put Lincoln’s situation in the context of how the concept of luxury has changed. “Most luxury brands today aren’t luxury brands,” Hall said. “They’ve become luxury-branded products. Many are thinking of luxury as a series of checklists, but the traditional definition of luxury has a degree of exclusivity.”
Since just about every “luxury” feature, like leather seats and high end infotainment systems, can be ordered on mass-market vehicles, Hall said that selling “luxury” cars has become a bit like selling smartphones. “There’s nothing you can do to a smartphone to make it luxurious except glitz it up, but that’s styling and branding, not luxury.”
Hall said that with every manufacturer offering effectively the same features on cars in every segment, it has become harder for premium brands to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Mays concurred and said that Lincoln has a “whole list of things” that will make them stand out in the crowded luxury market. “Every brand needs to have a DNA and a unique selling point and things in the vehicle that make you think, ‘That’s that particular brand,’” May said. He indicated that the new MKZ’s upgraded interior gives some idea of the direction that Lincoln will take.
With a new name, Lincoln Motor Co., and new product (the MKZ is the first of four new vehicles that Lincoln will be introducing in the near future) Ford is trying to reinvent the company founded by Henry Leland after he left Cadillac, which he also started from the assets of Henry Ford’s failed second car company. While Lincoln is targeting younger affluent buyers and having some success on the west coast, it is from the far east that Lincoln hope to significantly grow its brand. The company is preparing to launch Lincoln in China next year.