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Ford keeps us guessing about future Lincoln products

It's a week after the Detroit auto show opened to the press, and I have no clearer idea of how Ford Motor Co.'s going to rebuild Lincoln than I did before.

While Ford division occupied a large space at Cobo Center, the Lincoln stand was small and shoved into a back corner. You couldn't miss it as you made your way to the restrooms.

Ford executives offered a wait-and-see response when asked about specific Lincoln product plans. The underlying message? It appears to be: “Trust us. Look what we've done with the Ford division. Just trust us.”

And even the competition won't jar Lincoln.

Ford's head of Asia-Pacific and Africa, Joe Hinrichs, told me at dinner that Buick's compact car offering -- the Verano -- doesn't put pressure on Lincoln.

For one thing, Buick is global, said Jim Farley, Ford's global marketing and sales czar, who also was at the dinner.

The Buick Verano's engineering was done in China. It has been on sale there for several months. Buick is just squeezing some extra sales from it by offering it here.

The Millennial generation -- often defined as those people born between the late 1970s and the early 1990s -- will eventually want fun-to-drive, fuel-efficient luxury vehicles, Farley said. Lincoln will offer that with a promised compact vehicle due by 2014.

In fact, Ford has promised Lincoln seven new or improved vehicles by 2014.

But eager dealers have yet to see any evidence of those products.

When asked at dinner “Does Lincoln need an iconic flagship car?” Farley -- without hesitation -- said, “Yes.”

When asked “What'll it be?” he replied, “You'll see.”

At least the message is consistent.

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