With the European market showing tenuous signs of revival after plunging into its worst downturn in decades, Ford Motor Co. is prepping a major product offensive that includes a push into more up-market segments it abandoned with the sell-off of its former Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo brands.
Ford is leaving room for the eventual European launch of its North American luxury brand Lincoln, until then the maker is betting its new Vignale brand-within-a-brand can attract the sort of demanding buyers who might otherwise migrate to other high-line marques – and that it can deliver better sales while earning higher margins, in the process.
While Vignale is still a work in progress, Ford pulled the wraps off the first model to carry the new name during this week’s Frankfurt Motor Show. The Ford Mondeo Vignale is a fancier version of the maker’s midsize model line – which is sold in the U.S. as the Ford Fusion – and slots above the current Mondeo Titanium model.
Due to reach showrooms by 2015, the Mondeo Vignale features a number of upscale design tweaks, including a distinctive mesh grille, a bespoke paint scheme, unique badging, door handles, mirror caps and 20-inch chrome alloy wheels. Inside, it is equipped with quilted leather seats and door panels, and upgraded technologies such as built-in WiFi and a rearview camera.
But Barb Samardzich, Ford of Europe’s vice president of Product Development, stressed that Vignale is meant to deliver more than just premium trim. “Our vision is to create an emotion experience” by delivering premium services, some of which are still under development.
While final details are still being worked out, that is planned to include access to airport valet services, fast-track airport security lines, even free lifetime car washes.
“It will be the highest expression of the Ford brand,” proclaimed Smardzich.
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There are some overlaps between what Ford is planning for Vignale and what it intends to do to boost demand for the struggling Lincoln brand back in North America. Global marketing chief Jim Farley has outlined the goal of adding concierge-based services for Lincoln. As the new head of the upscale brand, he also marked the introduction of a limited-edition Lincoln Black Label brand-within-a-brand just last month.
Black Label customers will get to choose from a handful of premium design packages that will also offer experiential services still under development.
Might Vignale come to the States?
“No plans at the moment,” said global design director J Mays, who notes that the decision to create the sub-brand was made “because we don’t sell Lincoln in Europe. It makes sense to do that here (in Europe) and move the (Ford) brand up-market.”
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But Ford eventually does hope to take the Lincoln brand global, starting with its roll out in China about a year from now. Europe could follow. Escalating the mainstream Ford brand with Vignale could create a bit of overlap. But Ford officials say they are developing a strategy to keep from confusing the brands if and when Lincoln does cross the Atlantic.
Tags: European luxury brands, Ford, Ford Europe, Ford Europe luxury brand, Ford luxury brand, Frankfurt Motor Show, Lincoln Europe, TheDetroitBureau.com., ford vignale, frankfurt auto show, lincoln, paul a. eisenstein, thedetroitbureau