Job 1 was fixing the Ford brand. The second act is reinvigorating Lincoln. Mulally and Farley insist the focus truly is on the luxury brand now.
It's no accident that the first two products of what Lincoln says will be four all-new vehicles in the next four years are a midsize sedan -- the MKZ -- and the compact crossover MKC. The growth in the luxury market is fueled by younger buyers looking for smaller, fuel-efficient and affordable status symbols.
The MKC won't go on sale until 2014, but the concept car shown Monday is very close to the production car.
"We're setting ourselves up for a really nice opportunity to grow in the next 24 months with these two vehicles," Farley said last week.
Most of the Lincoln's anticipated 18 percent growth this year will come from the MKZ, which is rolling into showrooms now.
The MKZ generated 1,000 orders before it was shipped -- the strongest pre-sale demand ever for a Lincoln, said Matt VanDyke, director of global Lincoln marketing. Mulally and Farley hope the MKC will stop cynical critics from asking when Ford will ax Lincoln.
"The next four, five years are the most critical first step," Farley said. Resale values for the current lineup are in the 50 percent range, global platforms are in place for future products, and dealers have been trained to pamper their customers with the same zeal shown by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.
Here are reasons why this time may be different:
--Ford is taking its luxury brand back to its roots and original name: Lincoln Motor Co. A new advertising campaign touts its heritage and reinforces independence from the Ford brand.
--Lincoln is shooting a Super Bowl ad. The last time any Ford brand advertised during the big game was in 2006, the year the company posted a record $12.6 billion loss.
--Lincoln's promise of seven new or upgraded models by 2014, including four all-new vehicles over four years: the MKZ, MKX, MKS and new MKC. Lincoln goes on sale in China beginning in the second half of 2014. A dealer network is being established now.
--The U.S. dealer network in the top 130 metro markets was pared to 300, and dealers are committed to personalized, concierge-like service.
"People will always question the decision to continue Lincoln," said Rebecca Lindland, HIS Automotive director of auto industry for the Americas. "But the constant question about Ford's commitment to the brand may be answered."
Re-animating a languishing brand is a huge challenge.
General Motors set about reinventing Cadillac a decade ago when Mercedes-Benz and BMW were not as entrenched in the U.S. Despite major improvements throughout its lineup, Cadillac still ranks fifth among luxury brands in the U.S.
Mulally said starting in today's tougher climate is not a big factor because Lincoln has modest goals. He recognizes even moderate success will take time. Farley said the goal is bringing luxury to all Americans, rather than catching up with the Germans.
"We're not interested in being an elitist brand," he said. "Lincoln is not pretending to go head-to-head with the established German brands.
"Their expectations are realistic," Lindland said. "They are not trying to be all things to all people. They are more surgical in their approach."
But even a measured approach costs billions, she notes. Lincoln can afford to be patient. It is profitable today, even on modest sales. Farley said Ford's mainstream brand has attracted many new customers in the past five years. As they get older and the economy grows stronger, they will be looking for more upscale transportation.
Founder Henry Ford once said, "You can't build your reputation with people by telling them what you're going to do." Like the company founder, Mulally said he will let new vehicles like the MKC do the talking.
"When they see the MKC," said Mulally, "they're going to go, 'Whoa.' Ford really has a better idea about Lincoln."
Most Popular Stories
- Cabot Street Cinema in Beverly for sale
- The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., John Beifuss column
- Entrepreneurs Chase Social Media
- Will Yahoo Splurge on $1-Billion acquisition of Tumblr?
- Financial Times Twitter, Email Hacked
- Travel Startup Localeur Expands to Houston
- Google Fiber Making an Impact
- European Car Sales up First Time in 20 Months
- Facebook, Twitter Announce Apps for Google Glass
- 'Star Trek Into Darkness': The Return of Khan?