DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. has formed a team of 85 staffers to focus on fixing Lincoln.
The team is working on Lincoln's marketing, engineering, product development and dealer issues, says Lincoln spokesman Christian Bokich.
Cutbacks from 2007 through 2010 have spread Ford's work force thin, he says. Before the Mercury brand was phased out at the end of 2010 and the Lincoln team was created, the automaker had staffers who worked on the Ford, Mercury and Lincoln brands.
The new Lincoln team has "laser focus" on luxury products, Bokich says. "We know the needs of Lincoln are different from nonluxury. We had to put this team together to make sure that Lincoln gets its due."
Ford hired about half the team from other luxury automakers, such as Audi and Cadillac, and transferred the rest from Ford division, Bokich says. About one-third of the team is at Ford's world headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., with the rest in regional offices, he says.
Ford has earmarked about $100 million to advertise Lincoln this year, dealer sources say. Bokich declined to comment on the advertising budget. For comparison, experts estimate Ford is spending about $100 million to launch the redesigned 2012 Ford Focus compact.
Ford executives are expected to discuss the new Lincoln team plus future products and marketing for the brand at a meeting April 18 and 19 with the Lincoln National Dealer Council. Several sources say company officials are expected to show the redesigned 2013 MKZ sedan.
Last October, Ford said it will introduce seven "new or significantly improved" Lincoln products by 2014. Ford wants to eliminate at least 200 Lincoln franchises in the top 130 U.S. markets.
Last year, Lincoln's sales rose 4 percent to 85,828 vehicles. That volume was well short of Cadillac's 146,925 and Lexus' 229,329 units sold.