By on August 28, 2013

J Mays at 2012 NAIAS

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.

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112 Comments on “Ford Styling Chief: Lincoln “Not True Luxury”...”


  • avatar
    ash78

    J Mays, Ford’s chief stylist and a senior vice president of the automaker, plans to create three new Lincoln models based on the 1999 Audi A6.

    Fixed that for you.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Lol. Didn’t he do that already with the 05-08 500/Taurus Montego/Sable?

    • 0 avatar

      All I ask is that you let me go design Lincoln’s next town car and Continental. I PROMISE YOU, I’ll build a Lincoln you’ll want.

      1st step is to locate everyone responsible for the MKT and MKZ and FIRE THEM.

      2nd step is to go to the drawing board and take a look at classic Lincolns: Town Car and Continental. Then we try to come up with designs that blend classic with modern i.e Chrysler 300.

      2nd step: Town Car gets the Ecoboost 3.5-L STANDARD with optional upgrade to a fuel efficient 4.X -L V8.
      Feature set mimics current MKS, but we make it feel like the equivalent of Jaguar XJ-L inside.

      3rd step: Continental – we basically clone the S550 and make the fuel efficient V8 STANDARD with optional 3.5-L V8.

      4th Step, any GREENERS, LIBERALS or tree huggers who try to talk me out of step 3 get FIRED immediately.

      5th step, we take an MKS and build an Electric Plug-in Hybrid/ diesel that rivals the Model S – retaining the MKS interior space.

      • 0 avatar
        redliner

        Yes, but can you do it using one of fords existing platforms? The problem is not that ford engineers are incapable of making a world class vehicle. The problem is that they are hamstrung by the requirement that they create a “luxury” brand on a ramen noodle soup budget.

  • avatar
    redav

    If no one buys them, then they will be exclusive.

    But seriously, I’ve never considered exclusivity as part of my definition of luxury. And if others don’t, either, then it is not a part of luxury, regardless what the ‘experts’ say. But I do agree about the feature checklist-phone analogy. I don’t see tech features as luxury at all, and in many ways they degrade my sense of luxury.

  • avatar
    Aquineas

    I’d really like to see the Lincoln brand mean something special. My thinking is very much in line with Jack Baruth’s however. Making it special will require engineering, not styling and “option sheet manipulation.” Is Ford willing to spend the $1 Billion or so to develop a loss-leader for the purpose of lifting the brand? That’s the $50,000 question. It can probably be accomplished for less than that, but it sure would be nice to see them develop a “home-run” product that rivals the best in the world. I want to see Audi, BMW, Mercedes “worried” about another American product (other than the Cadillac ATS).

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Resale will continue to plummet, and you’ll be able to scoop up some nice Mercurys on the cheap vs the other so called luxury brands. Lincoln is dead.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Gotta love that red color though. That would look sooo nice on a 2011 Jag XJ-L Portfolio Autobiography Signature Limited.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Somebody in Dearborn is kicking themselves about dumping JLR…

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Land Rover, maybe. Jaguar? No way. They’re not selling. Besides, I think what Ford needs is a brand that’s more like Buick – a step between the main Ford line and Jaguar, which plays in the BMW / Mercedes sandbox (and not so successfully).

          If the intention is to build Lincoln into a Benz-fighting brand, it’s going to take a LONG time.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Yes it would. It would also look nice on a 2011 Lincoln Continental, with suicide doors, based on the XJ platform, and with a Coyote V8. Ford couldn’t be bothered to do that though.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          God why didn’t they use the Jag aluminum platform while they had it?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Because they want to make us sad. They paid for everything Jag not to suck. Then they stopped using Jag platforms after the LS. We should have had almost ten years of the Continental already. Jag may have also been too valuable to Ford to sell if there were multiple Lincolns that shared platforms with Jaguar in 2007.

            The XJ, XF, and XK should certainly be the basis of or share components with the Continental, LS, and Mark X. It makes me crazy

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            UGGGG. Makes me angry.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    If the proper definition of “luxury” is exclusivity, then that would mean that cars equipped with manual transmissions would qualify as “luxurious,” even if they had no amenities, because fewer and fewer people know how to drive stick, right?

    There’s something that bothers me about all this. Ever notice how every car manufacturer wants to be a maker of luxury cars?

    What, are there no other legitimate types of vehicles? Are non-luxury cars illegal these days? Is it impossible to sell a car today if it isn’t considered a “luxury” car?

    Look, if Lincoln wants to be considered a true “luxury” brand, then all it needs to do is charge $200,000 for literally ANY VEHICLE it builds, and make damn sure those cars are hideously unreliable.

    That’s how Ferrari, Mercedes and Porsche do it, and it works for them.

    All you have to do is appeal to the apparent indifference to reliability exhibited by people with money. Once people find out how much it costs to maintain, and how often you need to have it serviced, they’ll beat a path to your door.

    Remember, the rich don’t want a good car. They want a stylish money pit, best summed up by this quote:

    “You don’t buy a Ferrari when you can afford ONE. You buy a Ferrari when you can afford SIX.”

    Nuff said.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      the rich don’t want a car poor people can afford or that their peers can find. It’s the same reason they jockey for postion on the Gulfstream delivery list and why they cajole for getting a Tesla ahead of the proletariat din.

    • 0 avatar
      Aquineas

      I think of luxury as engineering, styling, comfort, safety, and convenience. Make it beautiful, make it smart, make it safe, and give it “Wow!” factor.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      Luxury is a nebulous concept that depends on context. Saying your brand is luxury because it has Bridge of Weir leather is sort of like saying you’re hot because you have big tits. How old are you? (Do you fall within the 14-19 year old jailbait window most desired by males) How’s your complexion? (Skin clarity matters) What are your waist, hip, and inseam measurements? (Ratios matter) What class signals are you giving off (it doesn’t matter to men, but matters to other women in competition with you).

      What it boils down to is supply and demand. There has to be high demand by the general public (and not some limited market like car enthusiasts) limited supply, high barriers of entry (cost, social connections, or availability), and some sort of signaling to indicate privilege or abundance of resources. From that, there’s little luxury about seats made from sperm whale foreskin, but much from a car seat that heats, cools, and massages. For now. Until it reaches mass adoption and there’s something else to chase.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      My Frontier’s manual windows and locks are exclusive!

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    I’ve said many times before that ‘luxury’ as an option sheet is a dead concept. It was on life support when VE gave us the Phaeton, and it flatlined 12 minutes after Peter Schreyer booked his flight to Seoul. Luxury now is (as in some sense it always was) paying extra for a service. Whether it be the service of better aesthetic design, (sport) performance, efficiency, or just general ass-kissing every time I bring the car in for maintenance, it’s all better service. Option lists no longer mattered the day a Kia came stock with folding side mirrors.

    That being said, for a company that states they want to appeal to younger buyers, I want to scream. I seriously want to grab J Mays by his architect inspired attire and scream in his face to the point that the bits of the sweet and spicy doritos stuck in my teeth spray on his designer glasses and he can feel my fingernails through the Merino wool of his shirt. I want to bodily drag him into the adjacent ford dealer and rattle his head against the B pillar of a Boss 302 mustang so that maybe (MAYBE!) he might get it through his thick skull that a car with world class styling and class thumping performance backed by a ‘Merican V8, just might sell to the younger set.

    I do not want a Mustang. It’s too raw a vehicle. It’s like a 12 year old’s rendering of what is the soul of a car made in the US of friggin A. What I do want is a fast and intimidating car that looks like it belongs to an adult with a glint of angry to it. I don’t want the automotive equivelant of a sleeveless white “wife-beater” tee to show off a tacky tribal tatoo. I want an egyptian cotton dress shirt that I had made the last time I was in Hong Kong and I want the fabric just thin enough that you think you can see the USMC tatoo and worry. Bascially, I want an S5 or an M3 that’s got George Washington under the hood holding a Vucan cannon like Jesse Ventura in Predator. Yes, that’s what I want. I have the money to buy it, FoMoCo has the bits and the ability to make it. Instead they give me a fat car for fat people with a fat sunroof that obscures the view out the fat ass of the car when it’s open.

    thank you, that’s my rant. I’ll go home now.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    So, neither luxury nor performance nor exclusivity nor style. That is a bold plan. Can’t wait for the MKFiesta.

    • 0 avatar
      SayMyName

      “Lincoln: Meh”

      Lincoln’s continued existence only serves to siphon badly-needed funds away from Ford’s product development and (especially) execution processes. I’d much rather see that money going towards better body panel fit on the Fusion.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Agreed. Seems like they don’t have the money to do it right, but they want to keep the brand around until they have the money to do it properly. In the meantime: cash-draining life support.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Interesting observation from a focus group of one. My Millennial daughter noticed an MKZ in front of us in traffic and it got a, “wow that’s nice response.”

    This is also the same kid that upon seeing a Nissan Cube for the first time declared, “daddy, that’s one ugly car,” so her looks good/bad radar seems to be operating.

    I think Lincoln is a dead brand walking (I figure Lincoln, Scion or Mitsubishi is the next to die in North America) but it did get my attention that a 13-year old liked the styling. Future car buyer perception…

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I don’t think of Acura and Infiniti as “luxury” brands. I think of them as being the current placeholders for people of my parents’ generation who bought Oldsmobiles, or the early-to-mid baby boom generation who bought Volvos and Saabs.

    And Lincoln? Yeah, they were “luxury” cars at one time, but that was when Cadillac and Lincoln meant “luxury” car, and BMW and Mercedes-Benz were “expensive European cars.”

    I think Mr. Mays is correct.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Agreed. I would say some of the more downmarket Lexus offerings fall in this category also.

    • 0 avatar
      darkwing

      I tend to agree, but it’s interesting, because the European automakers going downmarket has muddied the waters a bit. BMW’s the biggest offender, of course — even ignoring MINI — but the CLA makes a strong play, too.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      When Lincoln was truly a luxury car (i.e., when JFK was shot in one), BMW products with 4 wheels were not imported into the U.S. (3-wheeled and 2-wheeled products maybe, on a one-off basis) and Mercedes-Benz did not define “luxury.” It was a medium-sized German car that was not cheap (like the VW) and didn’t have air conditioning.

      A “luxury car” from Europe was a Roller, period.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “…Mercedes-Benz did not define “luxury.” It was a medium-sized German car that was not cheap (like the VW) and didn’t have air conditioning.”

        You forgot to mention they all came with a stick, too. Fixed that for you.

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          Thanks for that. The automatics in those European cars generally sucked, too. What little power the car had seemed to vanish somewhere in the fluid coupling.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            I had a ’62 Mercedes – 4 on the tree. My brother in law had a ’68 bought new with auto. 2 transmission rebuilds in 5 years, and he switched to Audi, just in time for their drama. Now he drives a Range Rover – glutton for punishment, I guess.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re forgetting the French. The Citroen DS was a luxury car. In all senses of the word. Magnifique!

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          Yeah it was magnifique all right. I remember seeing one upside down on the side of a road in Spain in the late 1950s. I marveled that the entire underside of the car was covered by a sheet of metal, leaving only the exhaust pipe exposed. I have no idea what caused it to assume that attitude.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    The new scent they’re pumping into the showrooms better be nitrous oxide.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Small pet peeve, but Lincoln will never be luxury. But neither will BMW, Audi or Mercedes.

    At the end of the day, these are all premium brands. In the premium segment, people still care about value, even if what they get is expensive and high-end. They might be spending a lot, but they still demand a certain level of tech or experience for their dollar.

    In the luxury realm, the dollar amount is unrelated to performance, but instead to things like scarcity, a fantastic history, and excess. True luxury doesn’t care about value for your dollar. It doesn’t make sense and doesn’t have to. It may not perform better or last longer. It’s beautiful for the sake of being beautiful. Its waste and excess for it’s own sake. There are very few true luxury brands in the car world. Rolls Royce is probably the most famous. Bugatti is another. These cars are a terrible value…but their story and presence is unmatched.

    To me, this whole emphasis by Lincoln on luxury feels a little foolish and transparent. I know that Lincoln is going after the premium segment, and not real luxury, but putting so much emphasis on it feels a little disingenuous. The people who really know luxury known that Lincoln isn’t it. Authenticity is a core value of luxury, and pretending to be it won’t make it so. So who is really going to buy a Lincoln? A fake?

    And while putting an effort on subtle luxury and high-end customer service is admirable, building this type of brand cache takes decades. Even 10 years is extremely generous. It could easily take a generation or two, if not more. I’m not sure Lincoln will be around to do so.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      “True luxury doesn’t care about value for your dollar. It doesn’t make sense and doesn’t have to. It may not perform better or last longer.” This makes sense to me – I’m thinking in particular of the big front fender blades, hood ornament, extra-cost Copper Moondust Metallic paint, headlamp door appliqués, and full-length edge moldings of the ’72 Lincoln Continental former dealer demonstrator that my family had 40 years ago. No one at the time would question that the Continental, even a base cloth-seat version, was a luxury car.

      What constituted American luxury of that era and earlier was defined primarily in these metallic terms because there was no pressure to be energy-efficient or space-efficient. High tech was not part of the equation; for Lincolns of that era, for example, an early anti-skid system was available but not standard equipment, although radial tires were standard. Even air conditioning was optional on most Cadillacs of the 1960s.

      (With respect to pet peeves: It should be “It’s waste and excess for its own sake,” not “Its waste and excess for it’s own sake.”)

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Luxury is impractical and doesn’t make sense. Once it becomes understood and useful it’s no longer a luxury. Like the car itself, when it first was invented and made available they were very expensive, temperamental toys for the wealthy. Then Henry Ford had a different idea, suddenly the car was affordable, useful and then for many a necessity, but there was nothing luxurious about a Model “T”. I think the luxury auto has been running from the masses every since looking for that combination that doesn’t make sense, is totally impractical, but oh so luxurious and very desirable

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Off-topic comment that relates to this content in general.

    I love the new and improved TTAC.

    Love it.

    I’m starting to realize the old TTAC was incredibly negative. Like talking to your depressed relative that would complain on a sunny day about the risks of sunburn and then complain on a cloudy day how reduced Vit-D production makes them depressed.

    It was PSA this, GM, that, Chrysler this, Opel that, doom, gloom, chicken tax, prepare for a world where the Corolla is as good as it gets buddy because only Japan knows what they’re doing and, even they don’t do it well. The car industry is going to Hell in a hand basket I tell you, a poorly made America. designed Mexican built HAND BASKET!!!

    As I read here (less and less) I became increasingly puzzled at all the doom and gloom. We’ve never been in an age of such HP and torque (kW and Nm for our metric readers) plus reliability plus efficiency. If you went back to 1964 and said V6 engines will churn out 320 HP, get 30 MPG on the highway if you’re gentle, and will last for a 1/4 million miles with regular care and minimal hooning, you’d be locked away for being a looney,

    The gap between the worst car you can buy and the best has never been more narrow. In the B, C, and D and E segments there really isn’t a bad car. Sure the 2013 Corolla is, errrr, slightly dated, but it isn’t a bad car. Ya the Dodge Avenger has the charm of a Coleman cooler but again, with the Pentastar V6 it isn’t a bad car. These two examples are cars that are class uncompetitive, but by any reasonable standard they are still “good” cars.

    It occurred to me I really love the new and improved TTAC. On topics like the health of Lincoln or the long term outlook of PSA I’m presented with – facts. Not hyperbole, Not tainted opinion. I don’t have to read about how amazingly open the Japanese market is, when anyone with a remote understanding of international trade knows there isn’t anything amazing about it – no, not “closed,” but sure isn’t open.

    Keep up the great work. I feel TTAC has restored it’s mojo, has become possibly the most neutral just the straight up facts, even when the truth might hurt, Autoblog worth reading. I love it.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      totally agreed, and I’m speaking as a former member of the banned.
      the old regime made me angry every time I went to the site.
      Now I come for rational discourse of news and facts and irrational discourse of Baruth’s narrative red string diagrams that somehow manage to sucessfully link automobiles with music trivia, expensive watches, and cosplayers.

      If only I could get graduated out of the damnable buffer so I can direct post.

    • 0 avatar
      Mullholland

      APaGttH, for being “off topic” I think your comments are spot on. Thanks for your State of TTAC address.
      With regard to Lincoln: They’ll never get to “luxury” until they’re working with a greater degree of separation from FoMoCo. I know because I worked on the advertising and marketing for Lincoln back when Jac ran the show. In my mind, the crucial piece to their development is creating and building a car off of one (or several) platforms that are not shared with Ford vehicles. Ford’s shadow and brand presence around the world has made Lincoln a “friendly fire” victim.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The problem Lincoln had back when Jac was around was two fold. They shared platforms with Ford while being the low man on the totem pole of the PAG.

        Lincoln will have to share platforms with Ford unless Ford does a platform jointly with another company. Sharing a Ford platform isn’t bad if they are smart about it. No one will complain if the stretch the Mustang platform for Lincoln. They probably need to invest in a larger RWD platform, but a two and four door Lincoln based on the Mustang would be a start. They can go the Lexus/Audi route for the rest of their offerings if Lincoln has enough differentiation.

        • 0 avatar
          Mullholland

          Not only were they the low man on the totem pole at PAG, they were bottom dwellers at Ford.
          Your strategies for using existing Ford platforms would be a successful approach if Lincoln was trying to built cars that support a “premium” brand positioning. Making the leap to create the kinds of vehicles to transform Lincoln into a “luxury” brand requires at least one exclusive platform.
          What you propose is what has been done. It will simply yield more of the same kind of vehicles and weak brand image that Lincoln currently suffers from.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I agree that they need one exlusive RWD based platform. Their image needs the Continental flagship. Lincoln almost needs to be premium before it can be luxury. I know Lincoln is priced as a premium brand, but do consumers view it as that?

            I own a Lincoln because the MKT Ecoboost was cheaper than the Explorer Sport. Which is the premium product and which one does Ford make more money on?

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you for your comments.

      Certain things (the health of PSA for example) are clear for all of us to see. But when we have an opinion, we will publish it under a non-Staff byline. We want to enforce the separation of news and opinions BUT that will not preclude us from “adding value” (awful term I know) to news articles by having them written by experienced writers who can add context and insight in an objective, fact-based manner.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Agreed 100%.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Not sure exactly how this happened, but the flame wars seemed to have cooled. I’m happy to give J.B. and the rest of his team credit, though.

      Sail on, lads!

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    This discussion is missing the future and that’s when the great migration to electric vehicles hits the tipping point. If TTAC writers were on their game we’d be talking “Is TESLA redefining luxury” instead of pure marketing bling as every car is luxurious compared to what we drove 40 years ago. As wealth continues to favor the wealthy the bling market shrinks and that makes the mainstream market where the real $$$ is. Thats were LMC would make $$$ & thats were clapped out Escalades live and prosper based on image..not luxury. For the average savy car buyer…depreciation on luxury brands is the second hit and when I see a Merc go by, a Rover, etc…I laugh all the way to the bank. TESLA is an interesting test case and in terms of high innovation and exclusivity image…they’ve nailed that. Interesting to see their depreciation, frequency of repair, etc over the years.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Mazda sold a lot more rotaries than Tesla has sold EVs. Have rotaries hit a tipping point, or did they just tip over?

      The Tesla fan club is busy counting the proverbial chickens before they hatch. It’s a tiny niche, and there is no indication that the market is as large as Tesla and the EV boosters hopes that it will be.

      There is also a lot of cherry picking. Recently, Plug-In America produced a report that claimed that the Tesla Roadster battery packs had more remaining life than was expected. What the media reports failed to mention is that 19% of those surveyed had had some or all of their battery packs replaced.

      That’s a remarkably high failure rate. If that was in Consumer Reports, then I would expect to see a big ugly black circle in the reliability category underneath the Tesla heading.

      Surely, that battery failure rate is exacerbated by Tesla’s ploy of using more battery capacity in order to increase the range, which comes at the expense of durability. A driver who gets in the habit of “supercharging” the batteries is a good candidate for these sorts of problems.

      A major automaker couldn’t get away with that gamesmanship. If Tesla hits a certain critical mass in sales volume, then it won’t be able to, either. They aren’t big enough to upset a lot of people, but just imagine how 20% of Camry or Accord owners would react if they had a major component failure.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      I agree that Tesla has nailed it, and probably redefines what it means to be a luxury marque. For all this talk about exclusivity, materials, heritage, and pedigree, let’s not forget about innovation. Early adoption is one of the benefits of being rich and connected, and that would make a great future topic.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Well I like the looks of the new MKZ and I hope the obvious fit and finish problems get solved. I’d really love one with the V6 and every option box checked. (Something I wouldn’t be able to afford until the depreciation stick hits it though… lol.)

    Let’s be honest, are there any true luxury cars anymore? Heck I can get heated rear seats in a freak Elantra. AN ELANTRA for the love of all that is holy!

    So maybe power should become the new luxury? How about that, new plan. No Lincolns under 300hp!

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I just looked at a MKZ last Sunday…from a workmanship perspective, it looked tight to me. I think the issues may have been with early production models.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I really think with the standardization of “all gizmos” available on even plebeian entry-level cars, we’ll circle back to the coach built and more “craftsman made” approach. This will soon enough (once again) be the future (past) of luxury autos (motor cars).

    • 0 avatar

      If power becomes the new luxury item there will be power inflation. Actually, that’s probably where we are now.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    The MKZ had air conditioned seats standard from 2007-2012. In 2013 they became an option. How does this work to make Lincoln perceived as more luxurious?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Now that the product is getting better, job number one for this brand should be to get its dealer network upgraded. The only Lincoln store anywhere near the south suburbs of Denver where I live (i.e., where the customers who can actually afford Lincolns are) is a depressing, old-school, white-brick affair in a somewhat run down working class neighborhood. If you’d like, you can cross shop at the automotive pawn store that’s right next door.

    Inside, it was more circa-1980 car dealer stuff – old tables and chairs, and the salesmen were a bunch of duffers. Even the TV was an old-school tube model.

    The guy who helped me was nice enough, but when I asked him what the ecoboost engine on the MKS did, he couldn’t answer the question. Yikes. He can’t explain one of the main selling features of a $55,000 car? That’s bad, bad, bad, bad. I wasn’t serious about buying, but if I had been, that’d have been an instant “no sale” moment.

    And Ford expects educated, affluent people to come buy expensive cars there? They’re dreaming. Even if the cars are up to snuff, the buying experience is a turnoff, and people who buy luxury goods are very much into the experience.

    Meanwhile, the competition – let’s be real, it’s Buick, not Caddy – is in a newly renovated facility with all the bells and whistles, right down the street from an upscale shopping mall (which has Denver’s only Tesla store, not coincidentally).

    The other Lincoln dealer in Denver is in the north side of town, not too far from Boulder (which is chock full of trendy, loaded consumers), and shares a showroom with Ford. Nicer facility, but not up to snuff if you’re out to sell luxury automobiles.

    If Ford wants Lincoln to be a player, it has to at least look the part. The product isn’t perfect right now, but it’s passable. Providing a first class buying experience would probably help them re-establish a beachhead in the market.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      They have been making their dealers invest heavily in upgrades and training. The dealership I go to is recently renovated, has lots of ameneties, mostly knowledgable sales people, and provides extras that “luxury” car dealerships have. I also go to the largest volume Lincoln dealership. It’s a standalone dealership that does way more volume than most Lincoln dealers can ever hope for.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Well, here’s hoping they give the other dealers the same treatment.

        I also think they need to locate their stores in areas where their target customers actually live. Here in Denver, that’s definitely the south end of the metro area.

        The current location has the advantage of being somewhat centrally located (it’s just a few miles south of downtown Denver on the main north-south surface street, Broadway, along with a ton of other dealerships). But it’s in a sort of run down neighborhood. Not the kind of area that yuppies, executives and affluent trophy wives will want to drop their cars off for service in. In fact, I bet folks like that don’t even know where that dealership is.

        It wouldn’t work for trendy hipsters with money either – that’s not the kind of neighborhood they gravitate to.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Lincoln is forcing dealers hands right now. Either throw money at making your dealership have “The Lincoln Experience” or you’re gone. Some of the big stores in the western Detroit suburbs were the first ones to be completely renovated.

          They are starving for product though. The new Navigator can’t come soon enough.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I remember walking into a Lincoln dealer during the Merkur experiment. Cigar-chomping guys in polyester suits shod in shiny white leather shoes….yikes! No wonder why the prospective buyers for a Merkur Scorpio wouldn’t set foot in a Lincoln-Mercury Merkur dealership. Too bad, really. The inside of the Scorpio was easily as nice as any MB or BMW of the time, and don’t get me started on the truly sublime conolly leather…

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    In the past, a luxury car was “exclusive” because most people couldn’t afford one. To be sure, the principal reason it was expensive was because it was largely hand-built (see, Rolls-Royce). It also featured materials that the mass-production systems of the time could not handle well: wood pieces, leather, wool, hand-rubbed, multi-coated paint jobs. To be sure, some of this stuff was expensive, like leather, but the real cost in a luxury car was the labor that went into building it. Such hand labor, if suitably skilled, was capable of a degree of precision in assembly (fit and finish) that was not attainable through mass production.

    There was no one in the United States making cars like that. I think, in the post-war United States, Cadillac and perhaps Lincoln and Chrysler, recognizing that they could not equal the hand-built products from Europe (and also recognizing the very small size of the market that could afford them) began to define “luxury” in terms of features not available on lesser, cheaper cars: power windows, air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, automatic headlight dimming and so on.

    Inevitably, the economies of scale made those features less and less expensive, so they found their way into less expensive cars. So, now, it’s hard to differentiate these cars in a meaningful way. At best, they can be differentiated in the quality of the materials used and in the quality of the design (see, Audi).

    So, everyone has that problem today who isn’t still selling virtually hand-built cars. And the problem his, that today’s production line machinery is so much more capable that the advantages of hand-built production are slim to none.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Spot on – as “luxury” becomes more democratized, it also becomes less special, unless you’re talking about REAL high end cars, like S-class Benzes. In the market Lincoln is going after, the product is all basically look and drive the same.

      So…the keys will be 1) styling, and 2) the buying experience.

      I also think it’s smart for them to do a hybrid MKZ model – that’s a niche that most competitors haven’t really done (except Lexus, and their efforts in that area have been underwhelming at best).

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      I left out one other benefit of virtually hand-built cars, the possibility of owning a truly “bespoke” (in the original sense of the word) automobile which is truly yours and therefore unique.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Postwar Cadillacs were not “hand built” in the Old World sense, but they were better cars in virtually every way than a contemporary Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz and Bentley. Rolls-Royce hadn’t been “the Best Car in the World” since the late 1920s, and Mercedes-Benz wouldn’t claim that mantle until the late 1960s.

      A 1950s Cadillac was “mass produced,” but it boasted smooth V-8 power, a reliable automatic transmission, multiple power assists and effective, reliable air conditioning. This was when the Europeans were still trying to figure out how to make an effective heater-defroster system and an automatic transmission that wasn’t a complete joke. (Rolls simply ended up buying GM’s Hydramatic.)

      The fall of Cadillac started in the late 1960s, and became a downhill slide with the 1971 models. In the 1950s, though, Cadillac was still the Standard of the World, and it was Lincoln, in the early and mid-1960s, that first gave Cadillac a run for the money in claiming that title.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I don’t know if there was “no one” in the US building cars like that…what about Packard (before it merged with Studebaker), Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg and even the V-16 Cadillacs were supremely crafted machines equal to anything else in the world by any measure.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    “…if Lincoln wants to be considered a true “luxury” brand, then all it needs to do is charge $200,000 for literally ANY VEHICLE it builds, and make damn sure those cars are hideously unreliable.

    That’s how Ferrari, Mercedes and Porsche do it…”

    huh??? [i\'ve owned four porsches during my lifetime - for a total of almost 40 years - and they didn\'t cost me $200k, collectively]

  • avatar

    One of Lincoln’s problems is that the grill is so ugly. AS a branding item, it says, “this is a Lincoln and it scuks!”

    Back during the JFK/LBJ admin, Lincoln was a gloriously beautiful, graceful car. I mean, something you could stick in MOMA, and it would look like it belonged.

    To be fair, I think that from the back and the side, the modern Lincoln now has what it takes. But when I see it coming, it doesn’t look any better than a Kia. (And from the front, Kias look awful–a different grill problem.)

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Many of the opinions above as silly..and really full of hate crap.
    The fact that you have a stand up guy like Mays actually admitting the issue is a big deal…to me.
    Having a head of design admit they are pretenders is great stuff.
    And the lack of cudos from this bunch of anti Ford posters shows the built in hate.

    I love the fact he states Ford is committed to a 10 year plan…and these turn arounds take at least that. I remember when Audi and Hyundai, now everybody’s love child, were dead and nobody thought they had a chance. The fact Ford is committing ten years of money towards this goal is worth applauding…not the anti Ford pissing and moaning over and over and over again.

    Mistakes definately were made, however I think recently as a means of Lincoln survival in the short term. They had to get out a new look and the look they did is not bad. Enough of the anti Lincoln grill…it looks awesome to many of us and sets the car apart from the copycat look going on every where else. Its hard to tell cars apart these days.

    They should have given the MKZ a much more individual engine option than they did. They tried by keeping the 3.7 away from the Fusion…but its not that great an engine. In fact…the 2.0 ecoboost is a better engine. I know…I drove both as test drives. Giving the MKZ the 3.5 ecoboost would have been an awesome option…with AWD.
    The MKX should be much more separated engine wise from the Edge….again…with the 3.5 ecoboost!!!!

    Hopefully the new MKS will be cool enough to convince this hate crowd of its worth. As now nobody here seems to like it for the great American cruiser it is. Stop trying to paint it as a euro competitor when its a large, confortable, cozy and very powerful American road car.

    And hopefully they make the soon to come CUV a distinctive option over the Escape. Give it power…luxury and sport….should I mention power again? Would a 3.5 turbo even fit?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The 3.5/3.7 will be gone soon, and everyone will rejoice. The 3.5 Ecoboost is too big for the Fusion/Edge/MKZ/MKX. The 3.5 and 3.7 will be replaced with small V6s that are turbocharged and four cylinder turbos as well. Ford has a habit of releasing a new model, then changing engine options the next year or year after.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        nope…you are very wrong.
        in fact the 3.7 will be gone and replaced by a 2.9 ecoboost. And the 3.5 will stay and become an evem more powerful engine. The 3.5 will also gain a large improvement on HP and torque…even higher than the SHO…helping make it a much better buy.Or at least make it seem a reason to be higher in value.

        I am now thinking this new 2.9 will be the engine of the new soon to come CUV…as well as a super MKZ (Lincoln SHO?).

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The 3.5 ecoboost is staying. The 3.5/3.7 duratec will be phased out eventually. I know Lincoln doesn’t use the NA 3.5, but its basically the same as the 3.7.
          The next ecoboost V6 from what I’ve heard and Derek’s reported is the 2.7T. It will make a much better top level engine in the MKZ than the current 3.7. It won’t be a Lincoln exclusive though.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      Ever seen a comparison test of a MKS vs Chrysler 300? You won’t because the Chrysler kicks the Lincoln’s ass so bad no publication permits it.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        what are you talking about? The MKS has a ton more features…perhaps you are not familiar with it.
        Even the MPG (twin turbo 355 HP gets 25 HWY and I personally am averaging 23.8 today in MPG. Pretty impressive for a 4500 lb car)kind of sucks on the Chrysler.
        I DO like the Chrysler look. Always have. I just think Chrysler is getting away with engine tech long time out of touch.
        I presume this is due to their lack of R&D funds from the bailout.
        I also have rented the 300 many times in my work travels. I find it extremely floaty and until the new V6 came out, terribly sluggish. It has really improved the last year or so inside…I can see from the rentals.

        The Bridge of Weir leather, Adaptive headlights and cruise, auto parking, dual sunroof, 355 twin turbo and its 1100rpm 350 torque are all more impressive than anything the 300 had in 2010.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          Uh, the Chrysler 300 with the V-6 and 8-speed is rated 31 highway. My parents have an older (2006) 300 with the 3.5L/5-speed combo and regularly get 29-30 MPG on the highway, so I have no doubt the new powertrain combo can best it. Plus, the Pentastar is not that down on power vs. the Ecoboost…I can only imagine how much power a twin-turbo Pentastar would make. Chrysler doesn’t bother with it though because they have the Hemi to address folks who want that kind of power. The Hemi is rated at 25 highway, just like the Ecoboost, by the way. The 8-speed is coming soon for the Hemi cars, so expect that number to go up by a MPG or two.

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            what?
            Look, I don’t know why you are doing this.
            I just checked the EPA to see if I had indeed gone more nutiier than yesterday.
            The Ford AWD ecobbost is rated 17/25/20
            the chrysler 300 AWD hemi is 14/23/17.
            So…what in heck are you talking about.
            And the 300 V6 is nowhere near close to the twin turbo 3.5.
            enough..you like the 300 more than the MKS/Taurus ecobbost.
            OK….it’s a free world.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            I was looking at RWD only. Why pay the premium for AWD when not needed? Plus your original post didn’t state AWD, which is optional on the MKS to my knowledge. Hemi RWD is rated at 25 MPG highway as stated earlier. 300S with Pentastar is rated at 300HP, more than enough with the 8-speed for 95% of the people out there and plenty fast off the line with it’s super low 1st gear.

            Once the 8-speed gets put behind the AWD Hemi, expect the AWD Hemi 300 to match the MKS Ecoboost highway ratings.

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            i see..you are not familiar with the MKS. The ecoboost in not even available without AWD. And AWD is kind of needed up in Chicago.
            Remeber…the MKS was introduced in 2009…and back then very few cars offered what it did/does…for the money.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        The current 300 in upper trim levels (such as the John Varvatos edition) is really very nice inside, especially if it has the stitched leather dashboard option. It’s brimming with every bit of tech that the MKS has, assuming that matters, plus it has the vastly superior uConnect 8.4 system. I really can’t see buying an MKS with it’s awkward proportions and milqtoast styling over a 300.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      Coyote 5.0 would solve a lot of problems.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    Luxury means a lot of things to a lot of different people. According to the fake luxury article from a while ago – it means expensive. Other people think it means exclusive. For others it is a laundry list of features or refinement or bespoke-level customization.

    Lincoln doesn’t subscribe to any idea of what luxury means. I am pretty sure they could raid the Ford parts bin and come up with a luxury car to meet a definition, but without the vision, they won’t get there.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    Car brands don’t die, they commit suicide.

    Ford makes commodity cars. From Henry Ford to McNamara to Iaccoca to Mullaly, it’s all they understand. The only one who ever got it was Edsel Ford.

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    They could start with rear wheel drive on a outstanding chassis, stiff body and great structure. Good bones is a necessity. They have the know how, just not will. Exclusive features would be nice but how about an exclusive level of quality and attention to detail. Remember the first Lexus LS models?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Thank you. You nailed it.

      True luxury, whether the consumer know it or not, has far more to do with what can’t be seen (such as acoustic properties, torsional rigidity & the capabilities of suspension components to transform a lunar surface into a silken path), than what can be seen.

      I remember a GM engineer remarking upon how the Lexus LS400 they had disassembled at the Warren, MI Technical Center had a floor which was essentially a sandwich composition of metal, foam, cork and some other materials, that allowed it to achieve acoustical properties they had not measured prior.

      He had a contemplative look on his face as he described this, as if he yearned to be set free by GM’s bean counters to go toe to toe with Lexus.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Keep in mind I drove mom’s T-Bird to my prom. Lincoln shouldn’t aim for Mercedes/Audi/Jaguar. The should aim for Lexus. Mom’s T-Bird was the Ford version of a Lincoln Mark “whatever”. Granny’s Towncar was an upscale version of a Crown Vic. They were often seen in upscale neighborhoods and at country clubs. Sadly, Lincoln nowadays is Ford’s top trim level, or one hell of a used car. Lincoln needs to return to the days where a Lincoln was worth, or perceived as worth, more than its Ford counterpart. Ergo the Lexus comparison. Now if they’d only make a premium trucklet and a personal luxury car based on the Mustang platform. Yes, a trucklet so I can go the grocery store and not freak out over door dings, they happen. A luxury convertible so I can go BWAHAHA in traffic.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    All I know is that the PAG cars were, indeed, world class. Semantics aside, they were made with premium materials, had excellent power trains, progressed to reliability ratings above average, and most important, sold well. The melt down caused great hand wringing that led to divestiture, and coming back with a single-line halo car was never going to be easy. I do know that every experience with my LS, my sister’s S Type, a later XJ8, a neighbors C30 and my current 98 Mark VIII reinforces my belief that counting these guys out would be very short-sighted. J Mays is no slouch in the product wars, and I believe the brain trust will end up being lauded for their product line in 2018. Surely they haven’t gotten stupid in just three years, have they? But, I liked the Mercury Zephyr, so maybe I’ve lost the ability to foresee what is going to be good. Just don’t wager any money at Ladbroke’s against them. Not even at 40-1.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Maybe a good first step would be to lose blingy wheels so cartoonish they’d embarrass Bieber.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    A friend of mine works for FoMoCo and recently told me that the Lincoln brand team is focusing their marketing efforts on professional/savvy/intelligent women. I’m not necessarily saying there is anything wrong with this, but how did it work out for Mercury? They refocused Mercury into the “chick car” (pardon my crudeness) division and today it has been relegated to the dustbin of history.

    One thing I have learned about the car biz over the years: You can sell an overtly masculine car to a woman but you cannot sell an overtly feminine car to a man.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    Let Lincoln be Ford’s Buick–not a bad thing–and start over with a new nameplate, maybe Continental. Or maybe something new. Such as…?

  • avatar
    Nigel

    For Lincoln to be a serious player it needs most of its products on a unique platform with at least some of their engines exclusive to the brand as a starter. The interiors need something that sets them apart. Maybe a very high end cloth leather mix, and some kind of two tone exterior. I don’t know , but something. Things that make the owner feel like a big freaking deal every time they get in the machine.

    Don’t sell the tech that spreads too quickly and changes too rapidly for real meaning.

    Whatever it does it has to stick with the program for 10 years. Cadillac has done an ok job at this since 2000 or so. If Lincoln does it better it could be the IT car. I just don’t think the domestics will keep it up and spend the money to make it work.

    • 0 avatar
      MK

      Yeah Baby! That’s what I’m talking about! A return to the Luxury of the past…I can just picture it now, a white vinyl Landau top and nice gold colored “Florida Edition” medallions with some wire hubcaps and gawgeous wide whitewalls baby! Yeah!

      C’mon man. These cars look like quite serviceable appliances, like a KitchenAid or something but there’s nothing the least bit “Luxury” about it. No joke I have a hard time at a glance telling a Hyundai from a Lincoln from a Toyota from a Jaguar. I can see a caddy ATS coming but that doesn’t mean it’s luxury.

      At least they recognize something is missing, maybe they can figure out what that is. In the meantime us bottom feeders will pick up the good stuff at the used lots and salvage yards, laughing that anyone ever thought a mass produced consumer gadget was a luxury item.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Everyone screams “unique platform” “exclusivity” and dealer stores that should be separate and unique from the mother ship brand. No one here would buy that car as it would be well north of the 40-50 grand premium price range.

    If you want true luxury, pay the fee and you will get it. Cadillac and Lincoln are not those brands anymore. Haven’t been for decades. Like a poster said above, they are premium brands (and there is nothing wrong with that). Mays’ comment isn’t all doom and gloom, if you ask me. You don’t see Rolls/Bentley/Jag offering four bangers and hybrids. Their customers do not want them as they can afford what they want. Different ballgame, different players.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    What people in this thread are doing is confusing luxury with aspirational. Aspirational branding can mean luxury but doesn’t have to. Saab and Subaru were both aspirational, buying that brand means you are now members of a club that you want to belong in.
    Lincoln and Caddy were aspirational for decades. Their cars were always best in class; most powerful, best features, highest engineering standards of all the divisions, unique styling. Yes it meant that they were expensive but that wasn’t the point. By the malaise era it got lost. Too much sharing, not enough differentiation to justify the price and keep creating that brand cachet that means exclusive.
    GM realized they royally screwed up and have tried hard to regain it through their Arts & Science designs and unique engines. Unfortunately that backfired when “lesser” engines from corporate GM were better. Still, it’s not over for Caddy just tough.
    Lincoln OTOH, is lost. What needs to happen is the exec need to involve the Fords. They need to pick a direction, define a feature list and have the Fords buy into it. The reason for that is to make sure that the message stays on target over generations of the C-Suite.
    My picks would be RWD platform and V8′s. Go back to the HotRod Lincoln era. Powerful, luxurious and different from every other division in the company. Plus your major competitors are moving away from it. Bonus! It also means that you’re going against the masses and it will take years of hard work and losses to get traction. That’s why the Fords have to buy in and keep the message on target.


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