Ford shuffles Lincoln marketing exec to EVs
O'Donnell: “This is a fresh start.”
When reports surfaced last week that C.J. O'Donnell, Lincoln's group marketing manager since 2010, had been reassigned to market Ford Motor Co.'s electrified vehicles, a couple of wags commented on the Automotive News Web site to the effect that the guy must be nuts -- or cursed.
Neither Lincoln nor electric vehicles get much respect these days. Lincoln's share of the luxury segment is around 6 percent. Despite Ford's efforts to revive Lincoln, many observers doubt the company's commitment to its last remaining luxury brand. And sales of EVs plus hybrids remain at about 3 percent of the market.
But Ford has made it clear that Lincoln and electrified vehicles will play crucial roles in the company's future.
Ford has invested $135 million on its new Advanced Electrification Center in Dearborn, Mich., home to about 1,000 engineers. It is launching a product offensive squarely aimed at Toyota Motor Corp., the undisputed hybrid leader. The Ford C-Max Hybrid, C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, with their great fuel economy numbers, should give the Prius series a run for the money.
Ford also has committed about $1 billion to resuscitating Lincoln. Following the redesigned MKZ due in showrooms late this year, Lincoln is introducing four new or redesigned models in the next four years. And there is an MKZ Hybrid.
O'Donnell, 49, was instrumental in Lincoln's reinvention after Mercury's demise. He helped shape Lincoln's plan to offer a new vision of customer service designed to pamper luxury customers.
Now, he turns to the challenge of launching the C-Max, a new hybrid-only nameplate in North America.
"This is a fresh start," O'Donnell, an affable, easygoing executive, said in a statement. "We've been given a blank piece of paper with the objective of establishing Ford's range of electrified products."
Despite its long history, Lincoln is a bit of a blank sheet of paper, too.
Ford's efforts to revive Lincoln have had some hiccups. An integrated marketing campaign built around the theme "Reimagined," which at one point was to hit the airwaves in late November, now may begin in early 2013, says a source familiar with the plan.
O'Donnell was reassigned in late September, but the automaker did not acknowledge the change until after he didn't appear at a Lincoln event in mid-October. In his new job, O'Donnell succeeds Wesley Liu, who becomes general manager of sales for Ford in China.
Now, just a month before the launch of the MKZ, Lincoln is searching for a new marketing executive. For now, Kim Cape, a former dealer relations manager for Ford and Lincoln, gets the job.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at firstname.lastname@example.org.