Ford’s upscale ambitions are riding on Lincoln, but brand image may be a problem


Having been the only one of the American manufacturers to not seek bankruptcy protection from the United States government, Ford is in the process of emerging from the automotive crisis as strong as ever. With the recent shedding of the Volvo brand, all of Ford’s luxury segment hopes ride on the shoulders of Lincoln, and that may not be very promising.

With the luxury segment poised to boom, Lincoln suffers from brand image; their primary liability can be seen in the fact that their buyers average 62 years of age – the highest in the industry. Younger generations simply see the Lincoln as an old man’s car.

Ford is doing its best to breathe life into the brand however. Last week, the company appointed Lincoln its own marketing manager; something it has not had in almost two years. Even with all of the technological bells and whistles in the new Lincolns, sales are not being helped much. Though Ford is posting its best number since the late 70’s, Lincoln as a brand is stuck at .8% market share.

Lincoln had been largely ignored for a few years, as Ford was on a buying frenzy of luxury brands that included Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Aston Martin. When current CEO Alan Mulally came over from Boeing, he divested these brands and put primary focus on the company’s core; Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln.

Another weakness with Lincoln, is the fact that it remains exclusively sold in North America. Almost every other luxury brand cashes in on the cache and prestige of having an internationally recognized luxury brand, which certainly drives up vehicle price. Even GM has been making a push to establish the new Cadillac in Russia, China, and Western Europe. With regards to Ford not offering Lincoln abroad, CFO Lewis Booth said that, “Our track record operating global premium brands has not been stellar.”

– By: Stephen Calogera

Source: BusinessWeek