For Bill Ford, Lincoln's fate is personal
Bradford Wernle covers Ford Motor Co. for Automotive News.
For most members of the Ford Motor Co. management team, the resurrection of the Lincoln brand is a sound business strategy and a critical component of Ford's strategy to be a complete global car company.
For Chairman Bill Ford, 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 at Monday's press conference during the Detroit auto show, unveiling the Lincoln MKC Concept.
"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," said Ford.
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 the 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," the Ford chairman said.
As Bill Ford knows, many in the industry, including some of Lincoln's dealers, have seriously doubted his company's commitment in recent years to carrying on that legacy brand. 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 aged along with the products.
Now that the company and the Ford brand have been rebuilt, it's time to build up Lincoln, Mulally says.
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.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at firstname.lastname@example.org.