• Nov 13, 2006
We recently told you about Ford's not-so-earth-shattering announcement that shared platforms are the key to future success. Judging by your comments, this should have been the assumption rather than the proclamation. But a couple of you pointed out what could be the tragic flaw in this plan - badge engineering gone bad. Well, Peter Horbury, design chief for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury, has stepped up to assure us this won't be a problem if he has anything to say about it. And being in his position, he has a lot to say about it.

Although the marketing department seems to be capable of differentiating the various platform mates within the FoMoCo family, buyers aren't always as capable of discerning the differences. "The next step is to be independent in the areas you can see, touch and feel," said Horbury at a recent press event. Horbury added that the '08 Lincoln MKS sedan will be the best example of this separation. Although built on the same platform as the Ford Five Hundred the MKS exterior shares "not a single piece" with the Ford. "To be honest, the more differentiation we can create, the more we can build a stronger brand for Lincoln, which stands on its own," Horbury said. "It also helps to make the Fords look like something else, like something special."

Sounds good, and the results on the Zephyr/MKZ have been pretty favorable, but we'll have to wait and see. Lincoln seems to be focusing on styling touches from its glorious design past, but will it ring true with buyers?


[Source: Automotive News, sub req]


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  • 20 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      I really think the Ford - Mercury - Lincoln brands should have very well defined markets niches. Ford, is fine where it is now but should give more emphasis to both great MPG options like bioDiesel Hybrids, Nitrogen Accumulator over Hydraulic Hybrids etc. - and high performance options like the Mustang performers and a new Fusion Coupe as well as high performance versions of the Fusion sedan and please with a quick a re-skinned 500 with some panache. They must also produce the RWD 427 concept but with a reasonable selection of engines from economy to high performance.

      The Lincoln should make world class cars to directly compete with Cadillac, BMW, MB, Lexus, and Infinity etc. but with distinctively American in-your-face styling as in the Concept Continental, concept Mark IX and a high performance MKS.

      In between should be Mercury and the way to set Mercury off from the crowd is to bring the European Fords to the U. S. under the Mercury brand. A Mercury Mondeo with a twin turbo 3.5 V6 would be a huge winner as would the C-Max and Focus under Mercury branding. The Ford 427 concept would make a great underpinning for a kick ass Mercury Marauder.

      Lastly, Ford should build the concept Bronco (with Diesel) from a couple of years ago to go against the Jeep and Toyota FJ.

      There you have three distinct brands but with several common base platforms for economy of scale.

      Build each with PASSION for great cars! This PASSION has to show in each and every vehicle – that is the key to success!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Hey Dakota - No I am not kidding. I know this stuff costs more but Lincolns are supposed to cost more!!!!! That is why the Lincoln should not be the same as the Ford.

      And, it does not cost that much more. Two mm on the stroke basically requires the crank to be ground with different specs. Less restrictive exhaust and intakes are not major expenses and these could be derived with assistance of top aftermarket firms. The computer mapping is next to no cost at all once the initial programing is completed.

      I would even look into the Lincolns using some neat trick stuff like ARP bolts, carbon fiber engine covers and several other visible tricks to set these high end cars apart from the crowd. Balance shafts to make engines nearly vibration free would be great. FoMoCo needs to sell some sizzle along with the steak.

      A Lincoln should be a Lincoln - not a Ford with more chrome.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The '86 through '95 Sable and Taurus....yeah, absolutely no difference in appearance there (please note sarcasm)....so no reason to cross-shop. While we are on the subject "why buy a Pontiac when it's nothing more than a fancy Chevy?"

      If you really examine the pricing for many Fords and there Mercury counterparts, you are going to see that you are paying for more than different tailights and grille. Mercurys lately, often only have 2 trim levels to Ford's 3 trim levels. In other words, the Ford starts out cheaper and has a commensurate LOWER level of specification. (Something standard on a Mercury will often be optional on a Ford.)

      As for dakota suggesting it's not a big deal to make a few subtle changes to an engine and therefore producing a Lincoln (or Mercury) specific powertrain...shows how little he knows about modern cars. To give an example of how complex the variables are when computing classes of cars for vehicle emissions certifications... similar cars that are more than 150 pounds different may be in different classes for emissions testing/certifying. Boring and/or stroking and engine creates a whole new powertrain as far as the E.P.A. is concerned. When GM bored out the 3.1 liter Chevy V6 to 3.4 liters...GM had to certify this new powerplant, it does not "piggy back" on the old 3.1. And, if the block is already at it's limits...well it can't just be simply bored or stroked. Right now, many of the engines in Ford's modular line of engines (the 3 liter DOHC V6 and the 5.4 liter V8) are at the limits and will require a new range of engines to replace them. Do you really think Ford didn't introduce the 3.5 V6 because they couldn't get around to figuring out how to make a bigger than 3 liter V6?
      • 8 Years Ago
      I co-sign w/ Mondo.

      Mercury is a pure waste of money.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Mercury brand has been and expensive redundancy, from a consumer's perspective, for the last 30 years or more. And frankly, while 'making a Ford look even less like a Ford' would have probably worked at one time, since the 90s the average consumer has access to information on the Net which totally neuters that strategy. Am I just supposed to not pay attenion to the man behind the curtain? Not gonna happen.

      However I don't think Ford North America needs to ax the Mercury brand at all - they just need to refocus it. FNA should stop using Mercury to sell a third version of rebranded NA products, and instead use it as a conduit for their unique overseas products. In essesnce bring back the Merkur strategy, but with a name people raised on English can pronounce.

      Everyone I talk to these days says things like "What happened to the Focus - why is it so different/worse compared to the Euro version now?" Or, "Why can't WE get a Ka" or "Mondeo" or ...? You name it, people know about it! And these are the same kinds of people who would gladly pay the Mercury 'name-premium' for the opportunity to get a vehicle that suits their tastes, or get better MPGs, or just is completely different from a standard Ford or upscale Lincoln.

      It's so simple it's scary; FordNA, by simply importing cars they're already making elsewhere, give a brand that already has builtin recognition the ability to develop waaay more cache than they'll ever get by trying to rework NA cars until they're unrecognizable as such. Why waste the effort? Better to put the time & money into making select Euro - or even Asian - cars meet federal standards and sell them here. If nothing else, it would create a much needed positive buzz about Ford products again, until such time when they get their engineering house in order in the US so that they're own cars can sustain that buzz (something like a 5+ year project according to the new CEO). Companies do the same thing all the time when they make high performance models - hoping for the halo effect to obscure their more mundane products. In this case they'll get the same effect, without the need to spend a bundle on R&D for a completely unique vehicle (like the GT - which they also SHOULD NOT ax ... but I digress).

      And I think such a move would be good for FordNA in another way as well - by making the products they develop and sell here compete - on features, looks, and technology - with the best that their other world divisions are producing. That would provide just the kick in the pants FNA needs to get moving on diesel technology, space efficiency, handling dynamics, and so forth. They may even stop allowing their hybrid strategy to languish. I gaurantee, once the US public has a first hand look at what COULD be done here, the suits in Deerborn won't be able to prentend that they're doing their jobs by simply offering rebates, closing factories, and selling high margin SUVs.

      FORD - MAKE MERCURY YOUR IMPORT DIVISION. IT'S THE BEST USE OF THE BRAND.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "To be honest, the more differentiation we can create, the more we can build a stronger brand for Lincoln, which stands on its own," Horbury said. "It also helps to make the Fords look like something else, like something special."

      In the immortal words of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman:

      "Well, no sh*t."
      • 8 Years Ago
      I believe this is a good move on Fords part. They have really improved their vehicles with cars like the Fusion and Five Hundred, but need to design them so consumers can see the difference between the brands. I never understood why people bought a Mercury Sable over a Ford Taurus - I could not see the justification in the more upscale brand. Great to hear Ford is going to work on doing more then just changing the logos.

      James
      • 8 Years Ago
      Mercury is really not needed like oldsmobile, why should their be a middle brand between fornd and lincoln. With all due respect to mercury's past, i think it should be killed and so the funding can promote the others ford and lincoln.
      The only reason i can think for keeping it is if ford quickly moves to make mercury a Hybrid brand or something to differentiate it from the market.
      • 8 Years Ago
      ----> In other words, why the heck would I buy a Mercury?

      Couldn't agree with you more. While I understand the Fusion and the Zephyr/MKZ, I am having a a little trouble understaing the Milan, why was it necessary?

      It seems as if Ford insists on keeping Mercury around, if so, find something useful for them to do. Mercury should be to Ford, what Pontiac is to GM. It's that simple. It pointless and a waste on money keeping them around in their current form.

      Here is where you start, a stylish, sexy, 2dr Hi-Po version of the Fusion and call it the Mercury Cougar or Capri. Don't worry, nobody remembers that horrible convertible (Capri)you brought here from down under or that Mazda derived sissy-mobile you called the Cougar.

      Dear Ford, A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
      • 8 Years Ago
      drolds1, RE: Fusion vs Mazda6

      Actually this is "badge engineering", but in this case (Fusion vs. Mazda6) it was done RIGHT ! This couple of inches in wheelbase and width as well as trunk/overhang make the Fusion a totally different car, which is a good thing. (I have owned both a Mazda6 and a Fusion.)

      The real point is, is the grille on a Milan going to make you drive to the other side of town and pay a couple bucks a month more ?

      The MKZ is now the **ONLY** Lincoln product that has a powertrain different than its Ford/Mercury cousins.

      The base MKX is thousands more than an loaded Edge. Is the Lincoln name and grille worth it ?

      I also think Ford is insane to **NOT** put the XC90/Yamaha V8 in the MKS. The world needs a Hot Rod Lincoln !
      • 8 Years Ago
      Oh yea I forgot.

      A new Mercury Cougar with Retro styling back to the classic 1968, built on the RWD Mustang chassis. Go ahead and give it IRS in the rear for a more up-scale ride quality and to justify the higher price.

      There was an artist rendition of one in Hot Rod a couple of months ago and it was drop dead gorgeous.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Why is the article talking about the five hundred while the car pictured is the fusion???
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