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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

A Lincoln Tutorial for Mr. Farley.

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A Lincoln Tutorial for Mr. Farley.

Detroit. I was interested to see Jim Farley's off-the-cuff comments on various topics while at the L.A. Auto Show. Ford's new marketing guru and ex-Toyota superstar had a few interesting things to say, most of which were on the obvious side of the meter, but his comments about Lincoln were worth noting. Farley insisted to the media that Lincoln could be and should be a global brand. I got news for Mr. Farley: No Detroit brand has been more bungled and flat-out mishandled in the last ten years than Lincoln, so Ford has a long, long way to go. And here's why...

Nine years ago, when GM decided enough was enough with Cadillac, one of America's - and the world's - most famous brands and crafted a Go Big or Go Home strategy that would either make Cadillac a contender again or relegate it to the dust heap of auto industry lore, their backs were to the wall and they had no choice but to come out swinging. Back then, Cadillac was mired in a downward spiral of dying owners and woefully obsolete product offerings - a landau roof car company lost in a leading-edge technology kind of luxury performance world.

But thanks to John Smith's driving vision and some of the most talented people at work at GM, Cadillac today is a vibrant, tough-as-nails competitor in the luxury market and a shining example of what GM could do if they put their minds to it. The new CTS is not just a sensational Cadillac, it's another one of GM's "no apologies offered, no excuses needed" new cars, one that even has rivals from BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz looking over their shoulders muttering under their breath something like "Uh-oh, these guys finally do get it, don't they?"

And the lessons learned turning Cadillac around are the reason GM is back on its game. In short, there would be no Buick Enclave or Chevy Malibu or Saturn Aura, etc., without the soul searching and ball-busting that went into turning Cadillac around.

But Lincoln? Uh, not so much.

While GM was toiling away and doing the heavy-lifting on Cadillac, Ford was hopelessly nowhere with Lincoln. Sure, there were signs of life when the LS was present and accounted for, but Ford's legendary warring fiefdoms and bankrupt "culture" worked overtime to make sure that Lincoln was underserved and forever lost in Dearborn's legendary bureaucratic wilderness. It didn't help, of course, that Ford "marketers" (and I use that term derisively) ripped the heart out of any legitimate positive initiative that was brewed for Lincoln, giving new meaning to the term "inept" at every turn.

As a matter of fact, Lincoln marketers became charter members (along with Mercedes-Benz) of my "No Auto Industry Executives Have Done Less With More" Club, a disgraced group of auto industry hacks who squandered every opportunity to do the Right Thing when it came to reviving and reinvigorating their brands.

Here's the deal about Lincoln, Mr. Farley. You're where GM was with Cadillac oh, about six years ago. No, you're not Lost in Landau Land, but you're still lost with a capital "L." The new MKS? A tolerable effort, to be sure, but is it a game-changing Lincoln? Oh, hell no. The double-winged grille is nice and everything, but where's the rest of the car? How are the back and profile of the new MKS any different from any number of cars out there? I'll answer that one for you - they aren't. Ford is moving at a snail's pace in turning around Lincoln, and it isn't pretty. I haven't seen anything good enough to be a called a "Lincoln" yet. That means there's no drop dead, oh my God, that's a Lincoln! on the street yet.

Your first order of business, Mr. Farley, is to get everybody on the same page as to what Lincoln is. Simplistic? Absolutely. Necessary? Well, when you have factions within your hallways still clinging to the notion that the use of the alphabet to name your Lincolns is a good idea, then you have some serious, big-time problems. There's nothing wrong whatsoever with the classic names that say "Lincoln." "Continental," "Mark" and "Town Car" say more than an MKWhat? ever will. You know it, I know it - hell, everyone seems to know it except for the people currently charged with that responsibility. So that's a great place to start.

Then, I'd go spend some time with the designers. They seem to get it, at least when they're left to their own devices and not mucked up by Lincoln marketers. You see, one of the irrefutable laws of the car biz is that you have to know where you've been before you know where you want to go. And you have to spend time with the designers to understand that (not something that was required in your tenure at Toyota, admittedly - where design was clearly an afterthought - but you know what I mean). No, this isn't a call for yet another misguided wallow in J Mays' "retro-futurism" adventure, but it does mean respecting Lincoln's heritage and making sure that if it wears a Lincoln nameplate, the moment you see it you can instantly say, "Now, that's a Lincoln."

If you need some reminders, take a long look at the following photos, especially the famous Gerry McGovern-penned Lincoln Continental Concept that was revealed at the 2000 NAIAS at Cobo Hall, which was never seen or heard from again. That particular concept could have put Lincoln on the front burner again, but the excuse then was that there wasn't a platform for it. Right. What a bunch of unmitigated bull$h!. We'll just place that in the "Opportunities Lost" File, a file that's overflowing over in Dearborn, by the way, so much so that I've lost track of all of the atrocities that the Ford bureaucracy has been responsible for since 2000...

source with photos with the rest of the article:

http://www.autoextremist.com/index.shtml

Edited by NINETY EIGHT REGENCY
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banish JMays. eliminate marketers and beancounters in the equation.

still, at least the MKs upgrades the lineup in the interim and should attract some who like a creamy version of faux luxury.

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Baloney. The retro concepts he refers to are a step backward. Unless, of course, he thinks there's a pent-up market for a "new" '61 Continental. There isn't.

The new designs say "Lincoln" in a new way. Lincolns are still all about being coddled. There's no reason to do a "Cadillac" and chase after Benz and BMW in Europe. China and the Middle East all tend to prefer the kind of luxury we used to treasure here in America. Those are the kinds of places where Farley is talking about growth. Sounds like a great plan. And the MK naming scheme is just fine as it honors the Mark name in a subtle way.

Has PD seen the inside of a Lincoln lately? Very Lincoln to me.

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There are items in the posted article that I agree with and some that I disagree with.

I think Lincoln has some company as far as terribly mismanaged brands. The Chrysler brand is in just as bad a shape as Lincoln, if not worse. Their lineup consists of blinged-out Dodge products and almost nothing that really positions the brand in near luxury territory. Lincoln has similar problems with glamorized Ford products, so I say they are neck and neck for the title of most mismanaged brand.

I think Lincoln really does need to draw on its heritage, but not by regurgitating retro design. I like the Continental Concept from a few years back, but I don't think Lincoln should blatantly recreate a retro design to reestablish itself in the market. Lincoln needs to review its history, determine what design cues represent the best of that history, and reinterpret those cues into a modern design language that will reinvent and revive the brand. Lincoln's heritage should be utilized to guide the brand's vision into the future, not bury the brand in the past by creating an updated version of a 60's icon.

I agree with banishing the silly alpha MK/Whatever? model designation. Lincoln needs to show pride in their traditional American luxury heritage by restoring a proper model name nomenclature that consists of a combination of resurrected classics (such as Continental) and new names. The MK/Whatever? system just screams that Lincoln desires to be an Euro/Asian wannabe.

I agree that Lincoln should stay in the comfortable luxury segment of the market. Lincoln vehicles should represent elegance, class, technology, and comfort. The previous post about leaving the sporty luxury market to Cadillac, BMW, et cetera was spot on.

I would still love to see Lincoln eventually develop a set of rear wheel drive components to underpin future Lincoln products. I don't think this will happen anytime soon (if ever), considering Ford's financial situation. I do appreciate Lincoln's effort to differentiate itself from its Ford/Mercury platform mates with the MKS. If Lincoln must continue to share front wheel drive platforms with Ford/Mercury, then the MKS represents a good way to execute platform sharing (although I still wish they would have been more adventurous in breaking new ground for the brand with this car's design). I just hope that future generations of some of their other products (MKZ, MKX, Navigator) will follow the precedent established with the MKS.

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So true. Lincolns don't need to be retro, they just need to say, "Oh my Gawd that's a Lincoln!" in a design that both pays tribute to the past but is forward looking, like the MKR.

Lincoln is as bad as Chrysler, if not slightly worse. With the exception of whoever designed the MKR, the guys at Ford have no idea what Lincoln could and should be. And I totally agree that the EmmKayWha? naming system is a piece of steaming crap.

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I agree that retro is not the way to go for Lincoln... What they need is simple; a futuristic theme with 'heritage touches' (a.k.a. exactly what cadillac has executed so well with Art & Science)

I am excited to see what Farley can do with the place though. I still hold out hope that BIG things will eventually happen at Ford.

BTW, That Mark X is probably the sexiest Lincoln concept I've ever seen... It's what the Thunderbird SHOULD'VE been. (which means badged as a Lincoln)

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Lincoln, and Ford, needs to do what GM needs to do. They need to lead, not follow. They need to go with what made them strong and build on it. How do they do that? I don't think they know.

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Spot on.

Never has a company issued so many stunning concepts without any follow-through.

(Ford overall, not just Lincoln)

Ho-hum will never save them.

MKBS

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