Lincoln: Dead Brand Walking, or Signs of Life?
Written by: Steve Abrams on December 3 2012 5:13 PM
Read more: http://blogs.motortrend.com/lincoln-...#ixzz2EEa4cMRw
So why didn’t Ford terminate Lincoln at the same time as Mercury? When Mercury was euthanized, there were only a handful of stand-alone dealers, with the rest paired with Lincoln. Because the bulk of the dealers still had product to sell, Ford didn’t have to deal with the sort of massive payouts that GM had when Oldsmobile was put down a decade ago. In the last two years, Ford has pressed the remaining dealers to spend money on upgrades. With limited Lincoln sales, a number of dealers have opted to sell out, further thinning the ranks.
In recent months, Ford has announced plans to begin selling Lincolns in China, and marketing boss Jim Farley has been given overall responsibility along with his Ford duties. While Cadillac has always had its own executives who were focused on the brand, Lincoln has never had the equivalent of a general manager totally dedicated to promoting its interests. Unfortunately, changing the letterhead on the press releases doesn’t seem likely to be a particularly effective strategy to convince BMW, Audi, or Mercedes shoppers to choose an MKZ instead.
There are a couple of possible future scenarios for Lincoln. Farley could decide to go all-in and give the brand some dedicated, world-class products designed to compete with the most successful import competitors and Cadillac that aren’t shared with the Blue Oval stores. Sales could jump to their highest levels in more than two decades, justifying the continued investment in unique products and marketing. But that doesn’t seem likely given the recent pronouncements.
The more likely scenario is that the brand hangs around for another four to five years before being quietly shuttered if sales from the revamped lineup do not turn around Lincoln’s fortunes. In the interim, Ford brand vehicles will continue to improve to the point where they can justify the same premium sticker prices demanded by Lincoln. At the same time, we’ll probably see even more attrition among the dealers, leaving only the strongest stores in place.
Sometime around 2015-16, Mark Fields, now as CEO of Ford Motor Company after succeeding Alan Mulally upon his retirement, will announce the completion of his predecessor’s original plan as Ford Motor Company becomes totally dedicated to one brand. The remaining Lincoln dealers will swap out their signage and begin selling Fords.
Those upgraded stores will be the benchmark for the rest of the dealer body. From the base Fiesta S to Taurus Titanium and F-150 Limited, Ford will cover the same product spectrum that General Motors hits with four brands with lower costs and higher margins.
This is, of course, all pure speculation, and Lincoln could veer off on an entirely different path — especially if the Chinese take to Lincolns the way they did to Buick, but I doubt they will. Henry Leland’s legacy will probably be carried forward exclusively by Cadillac, which appears to be doing the right things to compete as a 21st-century luxury brand.
- By Steve Abrams
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