Questions swirling around future of Lincoln!

This is a very good write up on what the future holds for Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand. We weren’t at the dinner mentioned in the piece but it appears there weren’t many answers to the reporters questions.

My advice to the Bigs at the Blue Oval is “Go Young”. Take the time to establish Lincoln as a sleek luxury brand for style-conscious young professionals. (sound familiar?) It’s not a new formula but one that takes patience and top notch product priced right. As they climb the latter they will stick with Lincoln if their offerings can move up the ladder with the customer.

From Auto News.com:

It’s a week after the Detroit auto show opened to the press, and I have no clearer idea of how Ford Motor Co.’s going to rebuild Lincoln than I did before.

While Ford division occupied a large space at Cobo Center, the Lincoln stand was small and shoved into a back corner. You couldn’t miss it as you made your way to the restrooms.

Ford executives offered a wait-and-see response when asked about specific Lincoln product plans. The underlying message? It appears to be: “Trust us. Look what we’ve done with the Ford division. Just trust us.”

And even the competition won’t jar Lincoln.

Ford’s head of Asia-Pacific and Africa, Joe Hinrichs, told me at dinner that Buick’s compact car offering — the Verano — doesn’t put pressure on Lincoln.

Read the full article.

  

All eyes on Ford’s leadership

How good are Alan Mulally, Jim Farley and Mark Fields? They pretty much brought Ford Motor back from abyss to one of the most respected brands on the road. Can they do the same for Lincoln?

Now that Mercury will be hitting the graveyard later this year, all eyes will be on Ford’s leadership to reviving a storied but recently lost brand in Lincoln. It’s going to get tougher to charge premiums for near luxury vehicles in this market with Ford, Chevy and Nissan delivering what most would have only expected from expensive brands just a few short years ago. Sometimes you have to take a few steps back before you can move forward and Ford/Lincoln will start writing a new chapter in their history after Mercury becomes a part of it!

From AutoNews.com:

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. must do with Lincoln what it has done with the Ford brand — infuse it with new energy and sparkling product — if it is to offset the loss of Mercury sales when that 71-year-old brand dies.

Though Lincoln has a freshened lineup and stronger styling than in the past, it is still an also-ran among luxury brands in the United States. Ford clearly will need more volume from Lincoln to appease Mercury dealers — especially those who currently have Lincoln-Mercury stores.

“We have to make a very compelling case to our dealers very quickly,” says Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, in an interview.

Read the full article here.

  

End of the line: Ford to retire Mercury brand

It’s official. Ford will retire Mercury in late 2010! Mercury has been around for 71 years but now Ford will concentrate on trying to bring Lincoln back to where it should have been years ago. Is this the right move? Ford really had no choice but to kill Mercury and put resources into the Ford brand for one obvious reason. Ford’s are no equipped with some of the latest and greatest technologies available in cars today. With that being said Mercury didn’t have anything to offer that warranted a higher sticker than a Ford brand car or truck. In some ways it’s a testament to how far Ford has come in recent years so Lincoln better get cracking and really blow away expectations or it will be next! Let’s hope that Ford will put the muscle behind Lincoln this time around because the clock is ticking!

From the Detroit News:

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. today confirmed that it is killing its mid-market Mercury brand to focus its resources on its luxury Lincoln marque.

“We are very proud of its history, but we are now looking forward,” said Ford Americas President Mark Fields, who promised that the nation’s 1,712 dealers would be fairly compensated for the loss of their Mercury franchises.

He said the company would work with them to make sure their remaining Ford and Lincoln franchises make up for the lost sales. “We absolutely remain committed to working with our dealers.”

Read the full article here.

  

Does Mercury have a future?

The company line is really to say nothing at this time and I’d say that’s pretty coy considering all of the jobs (factory, design, marketing, dealerships and more) that rely on the Mercury nameplate. If Mercury is going the way of the Edsel then you have to wonder where Lincoln fits into Ford’s future? Mercury is down to a few re-badged Ford’s and Lincoln isn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball at this point in time.

From AutoNews.com:

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. plans to kill the 71-year-old Mercury brand slowly by starving it of product, two sources tell Automotive News.

Ford leaders plan to propose eliminating Mercury to the board of directors in July. They believe Ford no longer can justify the cost of supporting Mercury in light of the brand’s declining volume, the sources say.

The company has been laying the groundwork for eliminating Mercury for years.

Decades ago, Lincoln dealers were encouraged to add Mercury franchises to give them the volume they needed to survive. In recent years, Ford has pushed consolidation of those dealerships into Ford-Lincoln-Mercury stores. Those dealers now derive their volume from Ford brand sales.

Read the full article here.

  

Lincoln goes after Generation X demo

2010-Lincoln-MKT

As a proud Lincoln owner, I know that they’ve been making great cars for years. The LS was a great vehicle, and the new MKZ is a great sedan as well. The MKS, the new flagship vehicle, is a beast that would satisfy most Lexus buyers with its styling and performance. Now they’ve added the new MKT crossover (pictured above) to the mix.

The marketing message is also starting to sharpen as well, as Lincoln targets buyers in their 30’s and 40’s – the Gen X market.

Generation X, often referred to as the “slacker generation,” has shed that stereotype and now is a coveted consumer group at the top of its earning potential, Ford Motor Co. officials say.

With pockets flush with cash, consumers born between 1965 and 1976 are the target of Ford’s Lincoln brand, which is trying to reinvent itself after years of giving ground in the profitable luxury segment.

“We have an aging owner body, and we have the ability to move it in the right direction and get younger,” Matt VanDyke-marketing communications director, tells Ward’s at a recent media event here.

“To think we could flip over and get young 20-somethings into a luxury product at this point and consider Lincoln is something that I think is too much of a stretch,” he says.

Lincoln brass spent considerable time determining the unique makeup of Gen Xers, which VanDyke defines as being in their mid-30s to mid-40s. Unlike traditional luxury buyers, these consumers don’t want to appear “ostentatious.” Rather, they are “folks that are time-starved and look at luxury as something that makes their life simple and easier.”

How are they approaching this? One is an emphasis on technology. The design of the cars evokes a high-tech feeling that bears little resemblance to older Lincolns, yet it’s not as edgy as the recent Cadillac designs so boomer buyers should feel comfortable as well. The other part of the strategy involves music. The campaign’s TV spots feature music that the Gen X group finds nostalgic. The ad for the Lincoln MKS features a remake of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” while the ad for the Lincoln MKT uses a version of the 1980s classic “Under the Milky Way,” by Australian alternative rock band The Church. Check out a clip of the video below.

The strategy makes sense. I remember the Cadillac ad several years ago featuring the Led Zeppelin song. Music can help to reposition a brand, so Lincoln seems to be on the right track.

  

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