Today in Dearborn, Lincoln dealers from across the country will meet to learn how Ford plans to make the forgotten brand relevant again.
The snickers you hear in Detroit and around the country are from scores in the auto industry who think Ford CEO Alan Mulally won't be able work his magic on one of two remaining brands at Ford.
Look past that skepticism and there are three reasons Lincoln could be relevant and compete in the luxury car business.
1. Ford's commitment is long term
This is not a short term move to booster Lincoln. Mulally has known from the day he took over in Dearborn that Ford would need and always keep Lincoln. It's one thing to cast off distracting brands like Jaguar and Land Rover or shut down a drifting Mercury line. But that was never in the cards with Lincoln. And now, as Ford begins to reboot Lincoln, Mulally has made it clear Ford will give Lincoln a steady supply of new models for the next several years. That sends a message to Lincoln dealers.
2. Lincoln dealerships will be required to go upscale- truly upscale
Been to a Lincoln dealership recently? Few can compete with Lexus, Acura, or BMW when it comes to customer experience. Mulally and his team know this. It's the reason they will require Lincoln dealerships to upgrade and get in the game. Luxury customers expect to be pampered. The service department better make you feel special. The showroom better have the look that says, "You buy Lincoln, you are buying style." If Lincoln dealers do this, potential customers will come in for a look at the latest model.
3. Lincoln will set itself apart with technology and a refined look
Under product chief Derrick Kuzak, Lincoln has gradually been setting itself apart from the Ford line-up and positioning itself to compete with other luxury lines. Look for that to crystallize in the next couple of years. The Lincoln line still has a ways to go before it reaches the short list luxury buyers "must check out." But Kuzak will get Lincoln there while also leveraging Ford's success in technology with the latest generation of its Sync system.
Listen, Lincoln won't turn into Lexus overnight. But don't dismiss the chances of Mulally and his lieutenants making the brand a competitor in the luxury market.
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