There is luxury - and then there is 'American luxury,' according to Wolfgang Reitzle, head of Ford Motor Co.'s Premier Automotive Group.
'America is always, for me, space - comfort - easy,' said Reitzle, a former development executive at German luxury maker BMW AG. 'Why not make these positive elements?'
As head of Ford's luxury group, Reitzle must oversee the positioning of Jaguar, Volvo, Aston Martin and Ford's own Lincoln line. Last year Lincoln began casting itself as a unique American luxury brand rather than as a U.S.-based imitator of German and Japanese luxury vehicles.
The mission offers the chance to stake out a different concept of luxury, he said.
'Yes, the dimensions are bigger,' Reitzle noted. 'But I also get more space because it is intelligent, efficient packaging. I have more comfortable seats. Everything is easy to operate. People will say that is different. That is American.'
The strategy will succeed only if Lincoln vehicles match their competitors on a range of other measurements, Reitzle said.
'It will not work if we don't deliver the same quality, craftsmanship and technology level,' he said. 'But there is no law why it shouldn't be possible to do a super car in America.'
Lincoln's product portfolio is growing. By the 2003 model year, Lincoln may market a sport-utility based on the redesigned 2001 Ford Explorer and a sport wagon based on a stretched version of the upcoming 2001 Ford Escape small sport-utility.
But Lincoln will not abandon the traditional American luxury car segment. There is room in the lineup for the Lincoln Town Car and the Lincoln Continental, Reitzle said.
'The Town Car is so strong it would be silly to take it out,' he said. 'We are working on the Town Car - refinements, fine-tuning, lifting it to a new level of quality in every respect.'