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Lincoln: Code Blue

Is there a doctor in the house? Enter Mark LaNeve.

by on Apr.11, 2013

Lincoln's marketing mishaps - and production delays -- have left the brand in even worse shape than skeptics had anticipated.

The reintroduction of the Lincoln Motor Company via the new MKZ model is now officially comatose. A code blue alert has brought in an auto marketing turnaround specialist, the 54-year-old Mark LeNeve, to assume command of Lincoln’s almost new “luxury-oriented boutique agency” and continue as COO of Team Detroit, the Ford brand’s ad agency.

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The former Academic All-American linebacker at the University of Virginia is faced with a helluva marketing mess. The factory quality issues contributing to this situation are not unique to the introduction of a new model but the marketing blunders, gaffes, mistakes and eff-ups are unprecedented.  Unless one has a memory long enough to reach back to the legendary Edsel debacle.

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Lincoln Claims MKZ Production Finally Up to Normal

Supply crisis short-circuited critical sedan’s launch.

by on Mar.25, 2013

The new Lincoln MKZ should reach normal levels of inventory in the coming weeks.

It was billed as the most important product new product roll-out in decades for Lincoln, the 2013 MKZ expected to anchor a wave of new products designed to put the long-suffering domestic luxury brand back on the map.

But things didn’t go right almost for the start for the new sedan, parent Ford Motor Co. putting the brakes on production in a bid to head off troubling signs of potential quality problems. The result was a crash-and-burn that instead of kick-starting Lincoln sales saw them fall to a 32-year low.

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But the maker finally appears to be back on track, a senior official has advised TheDetroitBureau.com, with production now on a fast increase that should soon see plenty of 2013 Lincoln MKZ sedans in dealer showrooms.

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Lincoln Gets Dedicated Design Center

Collaboration “the order of the day, not the exception.”

by on Oct.19, 2012

A clay model at the new Lincoln Design Studio.

Ford Motor Co. has opened a dedicated Lincoln Design Center in Dearborn, Michigan, part of its effort to put the long-struggling brand back on track as a true competitor to marques like BMW, Lexus – and even the resurgent cross-town competitor Cadillac.

The new design center and studio will house approximately 150 designers, craftspeople and engineers dedicated solely to Lincoln production and concept vehicles, Ford said.  It also marks the first time in 40 years that all the disciplines required to develop a new vehicle for Ford’s up-market brand, both creative and technical, will work collaboratively in one space.

Setting up the new design center is all part of Ford’s efforts to reinvent the Lincoln brand, executives said. Once a serious competitor to Cadillac as dominant players in the U.S. market, Lincoln has become a weak second-tier nameplate – and one with virtually no presence outside North America.

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Ford hopes to change that situation by rolling out more stylized, technically sophisticated products – including an all-new version of the Lincoln MKZ coming for 2013. It has an assortment of additional models under development but industry observers warn that Lincoln now has to prove it has a unique identity and isn’t just a marketing operation for slightly more up-market versions of vehicles sold by the mainstream Ford “Blue Oval” brand.

A 2013 Lincoln MKZ shown with the brand's design director Max Wolff.

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Dealers Ready to Invest in Lincoln Revival

New MKZ winning retailers over.

by on Feb.08, 2012

The new Lincoln MKZ Concept will reappear in production form at the NY Auto Show, in April..

One of the things Ford Motor Co. desperately needs as it rebuilds the Lincoln brand is help from its dealers.  But despite some grumbling over the high up-front costs to convert showrooms to match the new Lincoln theme, the automaker seems to be making some headway on that front.

More than half of all Lincoln dealers in the top 130 U.S. markets have committed to upgrade their facilities, according to Ford.  And the new Lincoln MKZ – first seen in concept form at last month’s Detroit Auto Show – is helping win more over.

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“We have shared our plans about future Lincoln products, the (direction of the) brand going forward and the consumer experience we have envisioned, and already a majority of our dealers have said they are with us,” said Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.

“Ultimately, this is good news for our customers, who will see our new approach to the luxury consumer experience at every touch point,” he said.

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Lincoln Flees Detroit

Ad team heading to the Big Apple.

by on Dec.16, 2011

The updated Lincoln MKT. An even more radical design concept will be revealed in Detroit next month.

So much for “Made in Detroit.”  Ford Motor Co. has announced it is shifting the advertising work for the Lincoln brand from Detroit to New York after the first of the year in a bid to rebuild the brand’s luxury image and cachet.

Lincoln and Team Detroit at WPP have announced the creation of a new “luxury-oriented boutique agency” dedicated to Lincoln’s brand reinvention and creative marketing communications strategy. The WPP-owned agency, based in New York City, will open its doors on Jan. 1 and be headed by luxury automotive veteran, Cameron McNaughton, who joins as president of the agency and reports to Satish Korde, CEO of Team Detroit.

The ad shift is paired with a significant new product strategy that will be previewed at the Detroit Auto Show next month, Lincoln sources confirm.

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“We’re reinventing the Lincoln product and ownership experience and working to make it a unique, compelling proposition for today’s luxury customer,” said Jim Farley, group vice president, Global Marketing, Ford Motor Company. “Assembling a talented, Lincoln-only creative agency team, in partnership with Team Detroit and WPP, to build this brand is an important next step in our plan.” Farley said.

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Opinion: How Ford Can Fix Lincoln

Can Ford revive a once-grand brand?

by on Aug.08, 2011

Despite high hopes, recent products like the MKS have done little to revive the ailing Lincoln brand.

Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand, has been struggling of late, leading more than a few skeptics to wonder whether it’s time to abandon the once-grand marque, much as Ford recently dropped the long-suffering Mercury.  The Dearborn maker insists it remains committed to fixing Lincoln, with plans to introduce several new or redesigned models in the coming years, shuttering dealerships in over-saturated markets while renovating those that remain.

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While executives haven’t exactly been calling us for advice, we’re going to offer it anyway, because that’s what journalists do. If our plans for Lincoln succeed, we’ll expect our payment in a briefcase of $20 bills, thank you very much.

Just kidding—we give our advice for free. It’s up to the executives in Dearborn to take advantage. And Ford is taking the challenge seriously: The company has put together a 92-person task force to address Lincoln’s issues and hired designer Max Wolff away from Cadillac.

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Ford Reveals $1 Bil Investment for Lincoln

Maker promises dealers it will make luxury brand competitive.

by on Jun.21, 2011

The Lincoln Concept C small luxury car offers a hint of what's to come from the Ford brand.

Ford Motor Co. has promised its frustrated dealers that it will invest $1 billion in a bid to make the struggling Lincoln brand competitive, with an assortment of new products coming to market by 2014.

Once locked in a bitter, ongoing battle with Cadillac for dominance in the American luxury market, Lincoln has become little more than an afterthought in recent years. It currently holds less than 1% of the overall U.S. market, despite the addition of new and updated models like the MKS sedan, and MKX and MKT crossovers.  At the current sales pace of barely 7,000 vehicles a month, Lincoln could end the year with volumes of less than a third of luxury market leaders BMW and Lexus.

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The “question is whether Lincoln will be viable,” IHS analyst Rebecca Lindland told the Detroit News, which revealed the new management commitment to Lincoln.

That was a relatively charitable way of putting things.  Earlier this month, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson suggested Lincoln is “over,” and that Ford might as well “sprinkle holy water over it.”

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Is Lincoln Ready for a Remake?

Luxury marque considering compact crossovers, performance models and more.

by on May.03, 2011

Lincoln will likely update the Concept C show car for the L.A. Auto Show, later this year, possibly with a battery drivetrain.

With only two brands to focus on, senior Ford Motor Co. managers are getting itchy to rebuild the long somnambulant Lincoln marque – and are reportedly working on a wide array of new offerings that could eventually turn Lincoln into a truly global brand.

Sources say that Lincoln desperately needs the product infusion if it hopes to survive.  With the elimination of the long-struggling Mercury division the luxury brand needs to be than just a me-too clone of Ford products gussied up with leather seats and fancier electronics.

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A good indication of Lincoln’s global aspirations could be seen in the Concept C, the show car first unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, last January.  Based off the C-segment architecture used for the 2012 Ford Focus re-make, the Concept C takes aim at one of the fastest-growing segments in the global luxury market.

With a production model under consideration for mid-decade, Automotive News reports an update of the Concept C will make an appearance at the Los Angeles Auto Show, next November.

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Lincoln Ready For A Brand Re-Make

New ad campaign only setting stage for major shift in direction.

by on Oct.04, 2010

The Lincoln MKT, one of the brand's newest offerings, will soon be followed by seven other all-new or significantly redesigned offerings.

This past weekend saw the launch of a new ad campaign and an all-new tagline for Ford’s long-struggling Lincoln brand.  “Smarter Than Luxury,” as it’s been dubbed, will emphasize the Detroit marque’s technology – with features like the voice-activated Sync system.

The goal is to “challenge people’s perception,” by emphasizing technology, style and craftsmanship,” explains Matt VanDyke, Lincoln’s marketing communications director.

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But senior company officials admit that no advertising campaign alone will be enough to right what’s been wrong with Lincoln, a brand that must stand on its own, now more than ever.  And that means a dramatic shift in product direction that will begin to surface over the next several years, company insiders hint, as well as a restructuring of the Lincoln distribution network.

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First Drive: 2011 Lincoln MKX

New Lincoln crossover moves further upmarket, adds power and major electronics upgrades.

by on Sep.14, 2010

The 2011 Lincoln MKX undergoes significant changes for the new model-year.

Now that Lincoln has been permanently severed from the Ford-clone Mercury brand, the division will have to claw its way upward a step at a time into the realm of real luxury cars, and for 2011, there are a couple of significant steps, notably including the new MKX crossover.

The 2011 Lincoln MKX, first shown to TheDetroitBureau.com more than a year ago at a private event during the annual Pebble Beach Concours, has major upgrades that should significantly enhance its appeal.

The restyled MKX has the same doors and roof as the 2010 model, but everything else is new, inside and out.  The grille, hood, fenders, lamps, tailgate, and rear lamps, and a completely new interior, instrument panel, steering wheel and dashboard.

The big crossover now has the same large, toothy, split-wing grille as Lincoln’s sedans and the 7-seat MKT in lieu of the original horizontal mesh grille.  At the rear, the full-width taillamp of the 2010 has been replaced by twin lamps, so, in total, it looks very different from the original MKX.

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All 2011 MKXs will be powered by an upgraded 3.7-liter V-6 engine rated at 305 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque, driving the front tires through a 6-speed automatic transmission.  A computer-controlled all-wheel-drive system will be optional. Ford says the MKX will have best-in-class fuel economy of 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

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