|Bradford Wernle covers Ford for Automotive News|
DETROIT -- For most members of the Ford Motor Co. management team, the resurrection of the Lincoln brand is a critical component of Ford's strategy to be a complete global car company and a sound business plan.
For Bill Ford, executive chairman of the company, Lincoln is much more personal.
That's why the scion of Detroit's most famous automotive family was the first person to take the stage this week when Ford publicly introduced the Lincoln MKC Concept at the Detroit auto show.
"My grandfather, Edsel Ford, and my great-grandfather, Henry Ford, were both at the table when the Lincoln Motor Co. became part of Ford in 1922. From that moment on, Lincoln was passionately embraced by my family," Bill Ford said.
Designs by Fords
He reminded the audience that it was the first Edsel Ford who presided over the design of such classics as the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr and 1939 Continental. Bill Ford's father, William Clay Ford Sr., oversaw the design and development of the 1956 Lincoln Mark II, one of the marque's all-time classics.
"Edsel Ford helped develop Lincoln into a highly regarded brand defined by elegant design and new technology and aimed at a discerning group of luxury owners who wanted a unique and highly personal car -- in other words, a brand dedicated not to be all things to all people but everything to a certain few," Bill Ford said.
As Bill Ford knows, many in the industry, including some of Lincoln's dealers, have seriously doubted the company's commitment in recent years to carrying on that legacy.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally admits that Ford skimped on investing in Lincoln as the company went through a restructuring and the recession. Lincoln sales dwindled to an almost inconsequential level and the owner base has aged along with the products.
Now that the company and the Ford brand have been rebuilt, it's time to beef up Lincoln, Mulally says.
Against those doubts, Bill Ford took the stage at Detroit's Cobo Center with a pledge: "Each and every member of the Ford family and the Ford management team is committed to this enterprise because Lincoln is a vital part of who we are.
"Lincoln will be a luxury brand that customers that will be proud to own, with vehicles that are characterized with stunning design and delivered with purity and simplicity. Lincoln will deliver quality in every aspect from the vehicle to the vehicle ownership experience and a surprising level of customer service," he said.
Ford executives have conveyed this message before. But it makes all the difference in the world when the message is delivered by the guy whose name is on the building.