RICK KRANZ

Some food here for hungry Lincoln dealers

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

Ford Motor Co. executives have made it clear that Lincoln will be reinvented over the next several years.

But what does that mean from a product standpoint? How will Lincolns be different from Fords? Nervous Lincoln dealers want to know this -- they are worried about the brand’s future product plans. For good reason: Lincoln’s U.S. sales plunged 11 percent in the first quarter, in an overall market that was up 20 percent.

Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s global product development chief, provided some nuggets when we talked a few weeks ago about how the automaker will differentiate Lincolns. Today’s Lincolns have been criticized for being little more than pricier Fords, in some cases even sharing sheet metal.

Kuzak’s comments offer a pretty clear picture about how sincere the automaker is about the luxury vehicle business; the new models will evolve over the next several years:

• First, “full differentiation inclusive of the greenhouse, glass and all of the sheet metal to provide a look in every vehicle that is totally Lincoln, unique from Ford.”

• “Similarly on the interior, total differentiation in terms of design, whether it is the IP, door trim. What the customers see will be quite unique and totally Lincoln DNA.”

• “The vehicles from a functional perspective will also be differentiated with a Lincoln DNA versus a Ford DNA. Obviously this would lean more toward comfort because of Lincoln — from our perspective, providing almost an unexpected level of ride comfort but at the same time fun-to-drive driving dynamics.”

• “There will be technology that will be unique to Lincoln. Elements of that would be, for example, the electronic PRNDL (park, reverse, neutral, drive, low), providing not only a technology difference but a way to provide a truly unique design and interior.”

• “Fully retractable roofs will be unique to Lincoln.”

• “There will be some sharing of platforms between Ford and Lincoln, but we are convinced that we can provide differentiation through technology. The technology will come through electronics -- controls of the steering, the chassis system, as well as the use of active noise control.”

Additionally, Lincoln models will be differentiated in terms of overall length and width.

Kuzak’s comments should erase any doubts about how sincere Ford is about supporting Lincoln this decade.

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