A declaration by J Mays, Ford Motor Company’s design chief and a corporate player in Lincoln’s turnaround, has been making the rounds on the internet and in the buff books these days. But is it the whole story? The Detroit News tells us that, following an event in Dearborn, the senior executive said, speaking of Lincoln:
No, we’re not true luxury. [… ] We’re in an investment stage with Lincoln. We’ve probably got a 10-year investment to make.
The part that has been quoted by most outlets is the first part of that statement, as an admission that the brand falls short of its predicted return in the “true luxury” field. My bias could probably be excused at this point but I find that to be a little unfair. Factually, in terms of product offering and price points, Lincoln has been competing for a while in what is called the near-luxury or entry-luxury segments alongside respected makes such as Acura, Buick and to a certain extent Infiniti. Lexus has for its part been moving steadily closer to the German brands.
So, knowing a company’s overhaul can take a while, it’s only fair for a Ford executive to say that the brand is not “true luxury”… as in “not true luxury yet”. And that’s what I for one take away from that statement. The investment.
By all accounts, Cadillac’s turnaround has been a success: the ATS has been getting impressive reviews and a 2013 North American Car of the Year Award; the next-generation CTS should be a winner; there is a flagship in the pipes and, perhaps a better gauge of success, Cadillac’s latest concept cars Ciel and Elmiraj have been hailed as landmark designs for the brand.
But how long has it taken? Ten years, almost literally. The first model of the turnaround was the 2003 CTS, and while it wasn’t a home run and left part of the press feeling skeptical, it set the tracks on which every model thereafter was based. There were ups and downs (first generation SRX, anyone?) but ten years down the line Cadillac is alive, kicking and a contender BMW and Mercedes should keep an eye on.
So, maybe some time was lost in the past ten years for Lincoln (partly due to the successful overhaul that took place at Ford) but what I definitely take away from J Mays’ candid statement is the ten-year commitment made by Dearborn to product development at Lincoln.
And, judging by the pace at which the product portfolio is being refined (the leap from just the MKZ to the MKC is, in terms of design refinement, luxury appeal and marketing strength is impressive), Lincoln may very well be in a position to say “I told you so” even before ten years have passed.
Photo credits: Lincoln Motor Company, General Motors