Lincoln: "No More Badge Engineering"

Despite marketing its Lincoln brand as “not just luxury… it’s smarter than that,” Ford has finally admitted what the car guy world has been saying for some time: Lincoln isn’t a luxury brand… it’s a rebadge brand. Ford’s product honcho Derrick Kuzak tells Automotive News [sub] that the jig is up and there will be

No more badge engineering


But publicly smacking down poor-selling outgoing models as a way of proving that “we get it starting now” is hardly a new practice in Detroit. The real question is what can Kuzak show us in the way of a light at the end of this tunnel? Step one was apparently creating a Lincoln division that was materially different from Ford. In addition to what we learned recently about Lincoln getting its own design team, Kuzak reveals that

On the engineering side, Lincoln has a director of product development, Scott Tobin, a change from six months ago. There are Lincoln-exclusive powertrain development people, and there will be unique powertrains in some models, paired with eight-speed transmissions.

Still not feeling an upswell of optimism about Lincoln’s future? Have another glass of Kool Aid, and consider the following new “Lincoln unique” features that will differentiate Ford’s luxury brand:

— Push-button shifting controls. Forget the gimmicky chrome push-button shifts on the infamous Edsel. Taking out the shift column opens up the look of the interior.

— Fully retractable, all-glass roofs. This is not a typical 2-foot-by-1-foot sunroof, but a massive sliding pane.

— Continuously controlled damping, which allows a driver to choose among ride qualities.

— Available all-wheel drive in all models. This is available in Lincolns today, except the soon-to-disappear Town Car.

Unless Lincoln’s new 100-man design team comes up with some serious swagger, these features just won’t cut it. And without a hint of remotely unique product coming down the line (Focus and next-gen Escape “non-rebadges” are all we’re hearing about), Lincoln will continue to flounder. But Lincoln’s still signaling that its approach isn’t fundamentally wrong… the problem it seems, was the consumers. According to AN [sub], Ford’s fixed that problem, by re-orienting Lincoln towards

what Lincoln calls “progressive luxury” customers.

A traditional luxury buyer might stay at a Ritz or Four Seasons hotel; a progressive luxury consumer would prefer a small boutique hotel. Both demand the same level of performance, feel and quiet in their vehicles. But Lincoln’s target buyers view their vehicles as expressions of their personalities, not as trophies that show the neighbors they’ve arrived.

The “old luxury” meme is as old of an out-of-ideas marketing chestnut as “we want to be like Apple.” Interestingly, the brand that is most referenced in discussion of the Lincoln turnaround, Audi, used the exact term in its last Super Bowl ad blitz. But as far as Kuzak is concerned, the new design team, customer orientation and features are the final step needed to accomplish his luxury brand’s ultimate goal.

set Lincolns apart from even a top-of-the-line, flagship Ford Taurus.

But is the problem that Lincoln is too closely positioned to Ford or that it’s simply not competitive with the vast array of competitive luxury brands? After all, moving away from the Ford brand is not the same thing as moving towards success in the luxury market…

Join the conversation
5 of 53 comments
  • Andy D Andy D on Aug 16, 2011

    As a 60 yr old, I suffer from Town Car envy A real car has RWD . Wrong wheel drive is fine for appliances. Not real cars

  • Mandalorian Mandalorian on Aug 16, 2011

    How about standard V8s across the line. No more V6s, and for goodness sake, PUT THE COYOTE 5.0 IN THE NAVIGATOR.

    • See 2 previous
    • Mandalorian Mandalorian on Aug 17, 2011

      @NulloModo "MB, BMW, Lexus, Audi, etc, all offer V6s" Maybe that is the best reason Lincoln SHOULD be all V8, to be different and stand out from the pack, hasn't that been their problem? Lack of recognition? The V8 is the symbol of everything that is RIGHT with American Luxury Cars, trying to be Lexus or BMW is NOT. Lincoln shouldn't be best in class, they should CREATE the class.

  • Kip65688146 "Everyone is worried about the public stations, but why don't we focus on the low hanging fruit: home charging? "BAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.............This guy gets it!I'll add current battery tech means EV's in their current state are not replacements for ICE Cars & trucks but make a good argument as 2rd or 3rd vehicles in mulit-car households which is hardly a niche market.
  • 2ACL Looking forward to the next part. I didn't like the first generation, but the second-generation was on my radar; I like the low-key, yet elegant styling, and the automotive media raved that the road-handling was significantly cleaned up from its nautical predecessor's. I'd still consider one if a replacement event unexpectedly befell my TL, but developments since have made that something of a long shot.
  • Deanst “Switching to EVs will be end of the Dodge brand. Nobody wants EVs.”Tesla, a brand which only sells EVs, is the number 1 luxury vehicle seller in America. But do go on…….
  • Randall Tefft Sundeen Oldsmobile was ALWAYS my favorite GM marque ! I remember as a kid you couldn't walk down the street without tripping on one! In 1977 and 1984 respectively olds sold. Million units, GM's second biggest seller as well as being the test brand for new options (Why take a risk with Cadillac?) The first CLUTCHLESS MANUAL , the first ELECTRIC POWER WINDOWS the first AUTOMATIC not to mention in 1974 the first airbag. Iam fortunate enough to live in a warm climate where old cars are plentiful sadly very few Oldsmobiles. Many features we take for granted were developed by this special brand
  • Conundrum Some parts of the US are in a bad way due to drought and climate change as well, but Posky manages to avoid mentioning Lake Meade, Musk going bananas over no water for his Nevada gigafactory, a few wildfires and floods here and there. No let's have a chuckle over China's experience instead, and chuck in the name Toyota in the headline as a draw. Musk is demanding China ensures his Shanghai factory gets plent 'o power, because that's what spoilt billionaires do. Me, me, me first. Doesn't work when everyone's gasping for breath.Kind of seems to me that avoiding the obvious is the American way. Let's burn some more coal and make things much better! Yeah!Meanwhile, apparently whoever runs this website on a technical basis needs to go back to training school.meanwhileThe way this site "operates", which it mainly doesn't, is a complete farce!Let's have an opinionated article on that.