By on April 11, 2014

Max Wolff, Lincoln Exterior Design Chief

The Lincoln division of Ford has replaced former design director Max Wolff with David Woodhouse, the former head of the Blue Oval’s Premier Automotive Group, as part of the premium division’s $1 billion makeover.

Bloomberg reports Wolff will remain with Lincoln as the brand’s exterior design boss, and that the change occurred in December with little fanfare, as Ford no longer issues press releases for promotions below the vice president level, according to spokesman Stephane Cesareo. Both design chiefs were brought over from General Motors to Ford, with Wolff arriving in 2010 from Cadillac, and Woodhouse from GM’s design studios in 1999.

Wolff’s biggest mark on Lincoln is the current MKZ, which he reworked immediately upon arrival in 2010. Though the premium sedan — based upon the Ford Fusion — faced production problems that saw the overall brand’s sales fall to a low not seen in over 30 years, the MKZ’s success boosted Q1 2014 sales to 36 percent.

Aside from his styling work with PAG, Woodhouse was in charge of Ford’s advanced design studio in California between 2004 and 2009, and guided Lincoln’s strategy between July through December of 2013 before becoming the brand’s new director of design.

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52 Comments on “Wolff Out, Woodhouse In As Lincoln Design Director...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Good move.

    He looks like a drunk so he must be creative.

  • avatar
    GoFaster58

    I like Lincoln and I sure want them to succeed. But they surely do need to find their identity. They need a design that says Lincoln and the prestige it brings. Cadillac has its egg crate grille. Mercedes has its own grille as does BMW. Lincoln’s waterfall grille didn’t go over too well although I did like it. Lincoln should have continued on with the LS. They need a Continental such as the ’56 Continental. The Shelby GR-1 could have filled that niche. Something as dramatic as the Lincoln Continental with suicide doors. Step outside the box Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The only way to step out of the box is to step back INTO the box. They need to stop trying to emulate the German “sport” sedans and go back to American luxury with quiet comfort surrounded by quality materials and amenities.

      They can begin to recapture the prestige with formal rooflines, flat deep seat cushions and upright seating with plenty of head and leg room. Think of the customer in formal wear going to the symphony or museum, and design an appropriate elegant conveyance, even though the customer is liable to wear a baseball jersey and jeans to ball game.

      To recapture the prestige, Lincoln has to go for stately, elegant and comfortable, and leave the twisties to the Germans.

    • 0 avatar
      jrasero23

      Maybe I am in the minority but I love the toothy grill of last generations MKZ and the new phoenix shaped grill is great too. I think the major problems come with the MKZ lacking a more aggressive look and having a RWD system or just a simply beefier motor.

  • avatar
    mtr2car1

    That’s the pic of the guy being replaced btw.
    Must all designers have the “tussled” hair look to be hired?

  • avatar
    NN

    IMO, the MKZ is a beautifully designed car, one of the best looking cars on the road today and not an obvious Fusion badge job. If Lincoln puts that kind of effort into all of it’s models moving forward they’ll continue to grow.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      IMO, the MKZ looks like a flattened catfish, is barely more than a Ford Fusion @ a 15k price bump, has bizarre structural defects in the form of uneven, non-flush and non-uniform rear windows and metal surrounds, has build quality so poor that it makes a 15 year old Hyundai shine by comparison, and a 1 billion USD “investment” by Ford into the Lincoln Horseless Carriage & Coach Company, H.M.S. is the functional equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig and/or pi$$ng on Lincoln’s grave.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The man being replaced looks like a stoner. MkFusion was his baby? Good riddance.

    “Woodhouse from GM’s design studios in 1999″

    “Aside from his styling work with PAG, Woodhouse was in charge of Ford’s advanced design studio in California between 2004 and 2009″

    Wow an adult. Maybe the models of the Lincoln Imperial Motorcoach Co Ltd won’t hurt my eyes so much in the future.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    Those designer type must have the hipster look to be qualified for those design-creativity-I’m setting the tend kinda jobs.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Not an enviable job.

    More than half of the carblog commentariat (myself included) is convinced Lincoln has already designed its cars of the future…they’ve just never gone beyond the concept stage: the ’01 MK9, ’02 Continental, ’03 Navicross, and ’04 Mark X.

    Yes, these concepts ape Lincoln’s design heritage, but they also happen to be stunning, distinctive, yet modern-looking cars that still look fresh a decade later and have aged far better than Lincoln’s present model line.

    The other half simply doesn’t care.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The trick is building those vehicles to budget on available platforms with compromises. That being said, the Continental Concept on the Mustang platform is something I’d buy the hell out off. Price it $15K-$20K more than the Mustang and I will not bat an eye.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Ford and GM seem to have a hang-up about underpricing the overpriced Germans. That’s how to gain sales, but they just can’t get past the idea that if it sells at a lower price, it’s not an “equal”, whatever that means.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The MKC is starting between $5K-$7K below the competition. I think that is a good start.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            But the MKC, again, is pretty much the same thing as a Ford Escape.

            Lincoln even goes so far as to claim the MKC is an inch wider than the MKC, when this claim is dubious and misleading, since that extra 1″ doesn’t result from a separate chassis (which is what is being suggested, implicitly), but is the result of a “packaging” alteration in the location of the wheels.

            The MKC is just an extremely expensive Ford Escape (which is already richly priced relative to much of the competition, as it is).

            Therein lays Lincoln’s rub.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’m OK with the MKZ – that’s a nice looking piece. The MKS is, to put it kindly, confused, the MKT is ugly, and the rest of the line (well, the other two cars, anyway) is a big bunch of meh.

      But design isn’t Lincoln’s biggest problem – no matter how good looking their cars are, they’re not distinctive mechanically, and they’re not nearly as “crafted” as they should be. They look, feel and drive like nicer Fords. It took Cadillac a long time to develop cars that had their own distinctive mechanicals and feel, and the meat of their lineup – the ATS and CTS – is made up of cars that look, feel and drive “special.” Lincoln’s cars all drive like Fords. Even their “badge engineered” cars – the XTS, SRX, ELR and Escalade – don’t look much like their cheaper platform mates, and the quality and workmanship is all top drawer. But it took a LONG time to get there for the brand.

      I think Lincoln’s march back to respectability will be an equally long process.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I actually think some of the Lincolns have become closer to the Ford’s interior wise. I have a 2010 MKT, and the interior is much nicer than the Flex/Explorer. Now, the 2014 MKT looks more like the Explorer on the inside. The IP and MFT screens are almost exactly the same on the Flex/Explorer/MKT. The new steering wheel just replaces a Ford logo with a crosshair. The Explorer Sport gets two toned leather seats that I like better than any seats in the MKT.

        The MKT does have a better ride and is quieter than either the Explorer or Flex.

    • 0 avatar
      jrasero23

      @DeadWeight The MKC isn’t revolutionary and yes it is built off the Escape but I think this is Lincoln was smart to develop this car since the biggest growth in the market is for the small crossover market and the biggest buyer of these cars are young(er) females which Lincoln desperately needs. Is the MKC pushing the boundaries of performance, No but neither is a Lexus RX or Acura RDX. If there isn’t any production problems I think this car will have a ton of sales and leases.

      I agree quality control needs to be better for the MKZ and Lincoln has the answer to their problems aren’t partially made but they just need to wake up and put the MKR into production!

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I sure hope his cars are better looking than he is.

  • avatar
    stodge

    Finally, let’s hope this guy can design something that isn’t hideous and actually has character. Besides, he has spiky hair and a beard, so he must be good, right?

  • avatar
    kenwood

    No, this is bad, bad news. Woodhouse designed the Lincoln C concept and the Cadillac Imaj. He has a penchant for odd, bustle-back Renault-ish wagon type thingies. It appears now more than ever that Ford is looking to bury the Lincoln brand with this move.

    • 0 avatar

      Humm, it seems that there is at least one other person in the world that liked the C Concept.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      He also designed the 2002 Continental Concept and the Ford Shelby GR-1 concept. The Continental Concept makes up for all transgressions.

      • 0 avatar
        kenwood

        But more telling is that Lincoln didn’t incorporate any styling cues from his 2002 Continental Concept into anything, but they did use the front end of his Lincoln Concept C for the Lincoln MKS.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The tailights and front end of the continental made it to the MKZ. Not exactly, but close.

          If the MKC is the styling direction for Lincoln CUVs, I’m fine with that. I would prefer the next MKT to be more squared off though. Lincoln can continue the transition they are in and be successful. The 2015 MKC and 2016 MKX will sell.

          What everyone wants, including myself, is a Mustang based sedan with styling that has heritage. We are closer to that happening than we have been in a long time. Hopefully it happens.

  • avatar
    ellomdian

    I’m confused; is “Exterior Design” code for “put out to pasture”? Because if not, this sounds like they put someone at the top of design more for business reasons than stylistic ones.

    It’s always interesting to see what happens with manufacturers who put someone in charge who is responsible for managing the creative instead of just being the creative.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Good Luck to the ” New Guy.” Current Lincoln’s are a hodge podge of weird styling cues that have no heritage. And all that alphabet soup model names, UGH! The idiot who came up with the idea to drop the name Town Car & Continental should be flogged repeatedly. Goofy looks with Alphabet names just don’t work. Ask Acura.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Pacey lives!

  • avatar
    agent534

    I’m going to drop this theory here:
    Lincoln made a mistake by dropping the Blackwood.
    Seems like they had this positioned to be their Town Car replacement, as it was only rwd and the bed worked more like a trunk. The important piece being it would be a truck in CAFE. It was knocked for not having 4wd when the Cadillac did, but I don’t think they were built for the same targets. If they kept it, and tailored it more to Town Car buyers with each refresh, instead of dropping it and offering a dressed up truck Mark LT, and they would have a traditional Town Car replacement instead of the MKT they want to steer Town Car buyers to now.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The Town Car replacements are the MKT and Navigator. I see black Expeditions as Town Car replacements as well. They all work better for a black car than the Blackwood/Mark LT would. Those who buy trucks have proven to pay more and pay more often for a Ford than a Lincoln.

      Cadilliac also discontinued the Escalade EXT. Luxo trucks need to be truck brands.

      • 0 avatar
        agent534

        I’m arguing that Blackwood wasn’t meant to be a luxo-truck, but a shot at a Town Car replacement. It obviously was body on frame, and rwd like the TC. The first(only)gen shows the truck foundation, but they could have hid that better in the next gen. As a black car for limo use, the MKT and Navigator probably are fine with their extra rear head and cargo room, but for the personal buyer who wants a rwd 4-door, body on frame, v8 luxury car, a refined Blackwood would be that car/truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Panther Platform

      Lincoln made a mistake dropping the Town Car.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Well I’d say that Lincoln needs a true flagship. The MKS doesn’t cut it. My wife (who is not an enthusiast by any means) recognizes that the Town Car was at least properly stately in its appearance. Lincoln needs a true stately car.

        • 0 avatar
          Panther Platform

          For every MKS I see on the road I see at least 10 ten town cars. Lincoln should either throw in the towel or make stately cars that real Lincoln lovers want. Probably their best bet would be a Continental based on the Mustang platform.

        • 0 avatar
          jrasero23

          The answer is the MKR. Based on an enlarged Mustang.

  • avatar
    dtremit

    I don’t know the internal politics behind this, and it may just be a case of a talented designer who’s not a talented manager — but demoting Wolff after only one of his cars has hit the market just reeks of failure to me.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Downward spiral, huh?


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