Aston Martin's is the smallest stand at the auto show. It is also the largest.
This year, Jaguar, Mazda and tiny Aston Martin join Ford, Lincoln and Mercury under the blue-oval umbrella on the show floor. For the first time, Ford Motor Co. is grouping its 'family of brands' in the largest display in the show's history.
Ford's goal is to create a stronger corporate identity for Ford Motor Co., while showcasing the newly defined differences among the six brands.
'Clearly, there's always risk when showing separate brands together at an auto show,' said Richard Beattie, CEO of Mazda North American Operations. 'Why would you want to associate an Asian brand and two European brands with Ford?'
But Beattie and Ford executives argue that differences can be showcased by bringing the brands together. In addition, Ford Motor Co. executives say they want to throw weight behind the corporate identity as a name consumers can trust.
'Historically, Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and the GM brands have done a lot of badge engineering,' Beattie said. 'You can avoid the public perception of that by bringing truly different brands together in a display like this.'
Nick Scheele, CEO of Jaguar Cars Ltd., said Jaguar's appearance under the Ford brand umbrella might not have been appropriate in former days, when Jaguar was weaker. But now that Jaguar has produced a number of strong models featuring classic Jaguar brand characteristics under Ford's ownership, it is not as much of an issue, he said.
'Ford Motor Co. has been able to nurture very, very different cultures without imposing its own culture on Jaguar, Aston Martin or Mazda,' he said.
Several competitors complimented Ford's two-story extravaganza, said Rewey. 'I am sure others will follow this lead and want to consolidate their marques.'
A broad stairway leads to a bridge the size of a football field and a 350-seat theater. Down below, each display is designed to create a distinct impression. For example, Mazda is presented in yellow-and-black surroundings trimmed in rubber and aluminum. Jaguar is awash in clubby wood and Connolly leather. Aston Martin is dressed up in black granite, while Ford Division wears stainless steel and green slate.
Said Ford Division President Jim O'Connor: 'We've tried to have a visual description of each of our brands, both in feel and in product.'