This is going to be a serious effort, and the early signs are encouraging.
The Ford Motor Company is finally marshaling the resources and money to transform Lincoln into a true luxury brand again. While the company is guarded in discussing the full details of its plan, it's divulging enough for now to let the world know that this is going to be a serious effort. And the early signs are encouraging.

The linchpin to this turnaround will be daring new products and significantly upgraded dealerships. And the key to accomplishing that is a new organizational structure for Lincoln. Up through the 1950s, Lincoln was a stand-alone "house" with its own headquarters, designers, engineers and assembly. The new organization will not recreate that original "house" concept, but it's a big step in the right direction.

Lincoln says it will not abandon its traditional customers, but it must attract a new generation of buyers, people with a different psychographic mindset than those who have been buying Town Cars for the last quarter century. Yet, while it may not abandon those buyers, saying they'll suffer from benign neglect may not be too far off the mark.

Of course, other luxury brands are not sitting still, and new entrants like the Hyundai Equus are getting into the game. Everyday that goes by only makes Lincoln's comeback all the more difficult. Even so, the Ford Motor Company has formidable resources and here's how it plans to put them to work.


John McElroyJohn McElroy is host of the TV program "Autoline Detroit" and daily web video "Autoline Daily". Every month he brings his unique insights as a Detroit insider to Autoblog readers.


The brand will be run by a core team of execs whose careers are inextricably linked to Lincoln's success.
As already reported by Autoblog, Lincoln is getting its own design studio within Ford's Product Development Center in Dearborn, Michigan. It's also getting its own dedicated design staff, headed up by Max Wolff, who was head-hunted away from Cadillac where he ran exterior design. Wolff joins a growing cadre of Lincoln executives who bring extensive overseas experience to their new assignment. This crucial development can not be over emphasized, especially the "international experience" part of it.

In recent times Ford has used a matrix organization to run Lincoln. Designers, engineers and managers would be brought in on an as-needed basis, then would transition back into the Blue Oval mothership to work on other products and projects. No one was truly in charge of Lincoln and the lack of leadership and accountability easily explains the brand's malaise. Now the brand will be run by a core team of executives whose careers will be inextricably linked to Lincoln's success - or lack thereof.

I've seen the new MKZ and the change is stunning to behold.
Lincoln will continue to build its products off corporate platforms, but we're going to see significant differentiation from Ford-branded vehicles. The real sin in platform sharing typically comes from financially-focused management that tries to take cost savings too far. They'll force program managers to use common body side apertures, common doors, and common greenhouse structures, even on cars sold under different brand names. So even if the headlamps, tail lights and ornamentation are different, the silhouettes look the same and that low-cost "differentiation" fails to fool discerning customers. Ford says it's now willing to spend real money on hard tooling that will provide noticeably different exteriors with unique sheetmetal and greenhouses. I've seen the new MKZ and the change is stunning to behold.

Inside, Lincolns will use push-button transmissions across the line-up, eliminating the gear shift lever on the console. That gives designers more freedom to change the console and instrument panel to separate them from Fords, which will continue to use gearshift levers. Under the hood, Lincolns will have unique powertrain variants from their Ford counterparts, though in some cases that variation may only be a few more gears in the transmission.

You can expect startling improvements in fuel economy.
Just as Ford has done, Lincoln will focus far more on fuel economy than it has in the past. The 2.0 liter Eco-boost engine will find its way into some surprising applications and you can expect startling improvements in fuel economy. Market research shows that automakers with superior fuel economy also benefit from improved public perceptions on quality and brand image.

The company is also in the process of slashing the number of dealers it has in the U.S. It's already cut hundreds of them and over one hundred more will get the heave-ho. The goal is to pare the list down to 325 dealers, about the same number that Mercedes-Benz has in the U.S. Then, Lincoln wants them to invest in new facilities, following an inviting design theme that it has selected. The new dealerships will look a lot like the inside of an upscale boutique hotel, replete with amenities like reading rooms and coffee bars that cater to an upscale clientele.

The plan is to transform Lincoln into a true luxury brand that can go toe-to-toe with Mercedes, BMW and Lexus.
Lincoln is also boring in on a sub-set of luxury buyers, a cohort it describes as progressive, open-minded and willing to consider new brands. These buyers are somewhat younger, somewhat wealthier and found more on the coasts than Lincoln's current customers. They represent about 25 of all luxury-brand buyers, they potentially represent a much bigger customer base.

The plan is to transform Lincoln into a true luxury brand, one that can legitimately go toe-to-toe with Mercedes, BMW and Lexus. Then, if they achieve that, the idea is to expand into markets outside of the U.S.

The plan sounds solid and the first steps look good, but I wonder whether the Ford Motor Company has the stick-to-it-ness to see this come to fruition. Lincoln's turn-around will not come overnight, and American corporations are not admired for their long-term patience. No, not even Ford. Even so, the company has a legitimate shot at reviving a brand that can trace its heritage back to the earliest days of the industry. Now let's see if they can do it.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 90 Comments
      cadetgray
      • 3 Years Ago
      How about instead of worrying about psychographic mindsets they just engineer a good car that exceeds the competition.
      Steve H
      • 3 Years Ago
      Lincoln started down this road a decade ago with the LS, which was a step in the right direction, but it never followed through from there. Now the LS is history when it could have evolved into a serious 5-series competitor. Let's hope Mullaly can impose a little more brand discipline. Judging by Ford's current product portfolio, which is pretty strong, I reckon Lincoln's path will be more like Audi than like BMW or M-B, since many of the models it has to choose from are FWD architectures. Still, that's not all bad compared to the many so-so Lincolns out there now.
      David S.
      • 3 Years Ago
      So just reading into this, I'm getting the impression that we'll see a Lincoln MKZ 2.0 Ecoboost in our near future. Which would make a very good match against the Buick Regal Turbo.
      jcar302
      • 3 Years Ago
      You want to get the attention of new and younger buyers. Build a car as good as the CTS V. Crazy fast and stylish.
        futuramautoblog
        • 3 Years Ago
        @jcar302
        The problem is.. CTS V is not a volume leader. Someone who are aspiring to have CTS V will not go get regular, run of the mill CTS. On the other hand, someone aspiring to have M3 will go get run of the mill 3 series. (RS4 for A4, C63 for C-class)
          Greg
          • 3 Years Ago
          @futuramautoblog
          In order to build a car on par with the cts-v, m3 and rs4, the original car needs to be over engineered. If Lincoln were to aspire to build something like that, they'd probably make a better model overall because of it. Those are the daring and costly moves Ford needs to make.
          kcroc10077
          • 3 Years Ago
          @futuramautoblog
          Agree 100%. For all intensive purposes the normal CTS and the CTS-V and two different vehicles. I think Caddy recognizes this and plans to "fix" it when the new CTS is unveiled. I also think the normal ATS will be desirable if one can't get an ATS-V. I don't know what Lincoln is planning but they need to get it going. They're going up against all the usual suspects as well as a re-energized Hyundai, Buick, Infiniti (whose kinda lacking direction but has the lotsa potential), and Acura (same as Infiniti).
      Mike J
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ford needs to knock the redesigned MKZ and the mid-cycle MKS out the park because it cant wait for the reorganization to turn Lincoln around
      icharlie
      • 3 Years Ago
      As long as they don't make any more failures like the MKT, i'm all for it. PLEASE BRING BACK A REAL RWD LS REPLACEMENT!
        ryan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @icharlie
        It was best car lincoln had in the 2000's
        ryan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @icharlie
        It was best car lincoln had in the 2000's
      to your email L
      • 3 Years Ago
      If they can make something the the 61 to 69 Continentals, that would be a success-like that concept car they had a few years back.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      NY EVO X MR GUY
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ford has improved vastly over the years. I think Lincoln will do well also. When Ford stock hits 7ish...8ish...Im going all in. Lincoln has gotten better over the years and will continue to improve.
      james
      • 3 Years Ago
      I hope Lincoln follows the lead of Hyundai because the new 2012 Azera is one awsome looking car. I use the Azera to compete with the next generation MKZ. If the next MKZ can duplicate anywhere close to this car in looks alone they will have a winner. I'am now driving a 2009 MKZ that I like very much, but the quality of interior materials is definitely not up to par with cars of it's class. With a prop rod hood and no rear air conditioning ducts that's something I may expect in a low end Fusion S but not a lincoln of any kind. Lincoln needs to thourghly dissect it's competitors part by part, feature by feature right down to the last nut and bolt and be better in every way. By taking this approach the rebirth of Lincoln will take place.
      Tom Cottage
      • 3 Years Ago
      The good way for Lincoln should be the strategy from Audi. AWD options for all FWD or RWD cars of a true luxury brand are needed in modern times!!!! The business model only with RWD or FWD failed!
        Tom Cottage
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Tom Cottage
        "...it's worked quite well for Audi, considering their sales numbers."
      Ralph Waldo Emerson
      • 3 Years Ago
      I find it interesting that Lincoln is not targeting (per the story) Cadillac at all. Sounds like they are going to end-up along the lines of Lexus, Acura, and Mercedes maybe but not moving towards the sport-luxury of BMW, Cadillac, and Audi (somewhat but they need more manuals). Still, they've nowhere to go but up from where they are now.
        ExoPlanet
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ralph Waldo Emerson
        Ralphy, your understanding is wrong. MB-BMW-Cadillac-Audi are mainstream premium luxury. Acura, Chrysler, Lincoln and Infiniti are luxury, but more entry level. We all know Mulally loved his Lexus GS..and thats where I see them taking the Lincoln brand.
          Ralph Waldo Emerson
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ExoPlanet
          I agree with the lexus statement, but the first part of your statement is pure semantics. I'm not so sure that these brands would define themselves as either "mainstream luxury" or "entry-level luxury." I didn't include Infiniti (and calling Chrysler even entry-level luxury is a bit of a stretch!) in my previous statement but from a driving-dynamics/consumer image perspective, I stand by my statement.
        futuramautoblog
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ralph Waldo Emerson
        What's interesting is how you've categorized BMW, Cadillac and Audi as sport-luxury, while putting Lexus, Acura, and Mercedes as the other. Clearly, the marketing campaign of said companies are working to have you believe they are sport-luxury. It is no secret Cadillac is chasing after the Germans. Thus, it would be a huge mistake for LIncoln to come out and say they are targeting Cadillac. Why go to 2nd, when you can go for the source? It only makes sense for them to say they are targeting the Germans, which are clearly the ruling kings of luxury cars.
          Susan
          • 3 Years Ago
          @futuramautoblog
          "Sport luxury?" When 95 percent of their product sold in the US has automatic transmission? Well, at least Audi, BMW, and Cadillac offer manual on some of their models.
          Ralph Waldo Emerson
          • 3 Years Ago
          @futuramautoblog
          It's not the advertising, it the products. Compare most of the model ranges for the luxury marques (3-series size to 7-series size) and you'd be hard pressed to not call BMW, Cadillac, and Audi more sport-focused than their rivals. In the lowest tier, this shows when comparing the A4, 3-series, and CTS to the TSX, IS, and C-class. Not that Lincoln shouldn't have high hopes in targeting the Germans, but they would be mistaken to lose focus of Cadillac, especially with the look of the new ATS...
          futuramautoblog
          • 3 Years Ago
          @futuramautoblog
          and yes, the marketing campaign do have a lot to do with the perception of the brand (and what you think)
        AMG THIS
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ralph Waldo Emerson
        A V6 FWD will never be Mainstream Luxo. This clears up my post, and explains the 300C :) Chrysler as a brand is still in transition..I agree.
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