NEW YORK -- Nearly two years after taking over Ford Motor Co.'s North American design group, Peter Horbury says he has made enough progress on Lincoln to take it off the top of his priority list.
The 2006 Zephyr mid-sized car is now on sale. And more Lincolns are coming. The brand's showroom will have eight entries by the end of the decade, officials have said.
Some of that work, particularly the Zephyr, was already well under way when Horbury arrived in Dearborn in December 2003. Back then, Ford design chief J Mays named Lincoln as priority No. 1 for Horbury, a Brit who had led Volvo's design makeover.
Despite a steady stream of questions and criticism about Lincoln's direction, the automaker has largely stayed mum on Lincoln design for two years.
"I didn't want to be responsible for another Lincoln show car followed by nothing," Horbury told Automotive News at a press event here.
Now production versions of show cars are really on the way. Lincoln issued a sneak peak of the 2007 Aviator crossover in late October. It will appear at the Detroit auto show in January and go on sale next fall.
A concept version of a Lincoln large sedan scheduled for production in 2007 also is expected at the Detroit show. Another Lincoln sedan and a Lincoln people mover are also in the works.
With that progress, Horbury says he now considers Lincoln on equal footing with the Ford and Mercury brands when it comes to divvying up his time.
Horbury is sticking with the notion that future Lincolns must look much different than their Ford or Mercury siblings. But discrete and understated design will remain the guiding force for Lincoln, he said.
Horbury is selecting about six classic Lincoln design cues to be used interchangeably. He won't detail that list right now.
But he will talk about one change in Lincoln's design intentions. Horbury no longer thinks Lincoln must have a uniform face. The brand had planned to migrate from its current waterfall grille to an egg-crate grille.
Now the plan is to use both: the waterfall, like that of the Zephyr, for a formal look; and the egg-crate, like that on the coming Aviator, for a sporty look.
"I rather like the idea that I'm free to choose," Horbury said. "If there is one thing America is to me, it is diverse. Is there an American face? No. Is there a Lincoln face? Well, there's two, actually."
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