DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. has hired a 38-year-old designer from Cadillac to shape Lincoln's future and compete with bigger luxury rivals.
Max Wolff, a native of Australia, will be Lincoln's design director, a new position, effective Jan. 3.
He comes in the wake of Ford's pledge to deliver seven “new or significantly improved” vehicles to its sole luxury brand in the next four years.
Wolff has been design director for Cadillac exteriors since 2007. At General Motors Co., Wolff has held various positions in design, including a stint in South Korea at GM Daewoo Auto & Technology. There, Wolff helped design the Chevrolet Cruze compact. He started his career at GM's Australia unit, GM Holden Ltd., in 1998.
He will report to Moray Callum, Ford's executive director of design for the Americas, the automaker said today.
Wolff joins a growing management team at Lincoln who share global experience. C.J. O'Donnell, Lincoln's group marketing manager, and Scott Tobin, Lincoln's director of product development, have also worked in Asia, Europe and North America.
“Hiring a Lincoln design director with global experience was a given,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of global product development, in a statement. “Max Wolff brings a fresh perspective that will challenge us internally and take Lincoln to new levels of prestige.”
Lagging sales gains
Lincoln is Ford’s only luxury brand after the sales of Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin in recent years. As recently as 1998, Lincoln was the best-selling luxury marque in the United States.
Through November, Lincoln sold 77,768 vehicles in the United States, up 7.4 percent from a year-earlier but not enough to gain share. Mercedes, Lexus and BMW each sell more than twice as many U.S. vehicles as Lincoln does. The brand also trails Cadillac, Acura, Infiniti, and Audi.
In October, Ford executives told Lincoln dealers it will eliminate at least 200 dealerships in the top 130 metro markets in the next year or so in an effort to increase per-store sales. Lincoln has about 1,200 U.S. dealerships.
In June, Ford said it will discontinue the Mercury brand by Dec. 31 while steering more resources into rebuilding Lincoln.
One of the seven planned new Lincolns is expected to be a small crossover that would share Ford’s global compact car platform.
Ford says Lincoln’s “hallmarks” will be refined design, fuel-efficiency and leading technology. Lincoln currently offers the MKS large sedan, a freshened 2011 MKX crossover, the MKT seven-passenger crossover, the MKZ mid-sized sedan that offers a hybrid version and the Navigator SUV.
Ford’s J Mays, chief creative officer and group vice president of design, hired Wolff.
Wolff’s early work included the Holden SSX showcar.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from Monash University in Victoria, Australia.