Lincoln Mercury's Sue Svatik is tuned into the subjective reasons why customers choose a particular vehicle.So far Sue Svatik's job has been pretty easy.
She is brand manager of the Lincoln Navigator, the full-sized luxury sport-utility that practically sells itself.
But she also is brand manager of the new LS series, a task that will be much tougher. Her job is to get luxury-car shoppers to buy a Lincoln sedan. In the process, she must get those shoppers to bypass comparable cars from Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.
Lincoln has been working on its plan for three years. First, Lincoln identified the consumers that it wanted to attract and then designed a car for them.
'The LS is not a rebadged anything. It's all new from the ground up,' says Svatik, referring to the Cadillac Catera, a rebadged Opel.
The LS series will have two models, the LS6 and LS8. The LS6 will be equipped with a 3.0-liter V-6, while the LS8 will be powered by a 3.9-liter V-8. The cars, which will be priced between $30,000 and $40,000, go on sale early next year as 2000 models.
Lincoln expects to sell up to 25,000 units annually.
Lincoln established an Inter-net Web site for the LS last August when Jac Nasser, president of Ford Automotive Operations, acknowledged the cars' existence.
Svatik says the site was expanded when the LS debuted last month at the New York International Automobile Show.
Lincoln Mercury introduced the LS a year before it will go on sale to begin positioning it in the market.
Now, Svatik says the endorsement of the automotive press during the next nine months will be critical to the success of the LS.
'We know from our research that consumers look to the buff books to tell them what's the newest and hottest product,' she says.
From the Web site and a direct-mail campaign Lincoln has received more than 8,000 requests for more information about the LS. The plan is to build an early order bank before sales begin.
'Ultimately, we'd like to pull those people in to take a test drive,' says Svatik.
Initially Svatik will not try to persuade import owners to buy the LS. Rather, she will target people moving out of domestic large cars and into luxury cars.
'In our minds,' she says, 'they have never had a viable domestic-made move-up vehicle.'
What Svatik brings to the challenge is the ability to understand the intangibles of choice, which she learned to do while living in California where she worked for Lincoln as an advertising and market strategist from 1993-96.
'We want to understand not only why they want to buy a car, but what other things they buy to get a better understanding of the intangibles that make a person reach for a certain product,' she said.
Svatik has a master's degree in business, is single and lives in Detroit. She drives a Mercury Sable, but plans to lease a Mercury Cougar until the LS becomes available.
In her free time, she enjoys long-distance running, hiking and sea kayaking.
Svatik has a feel for the LS target buyer because she is the target buyer.