At a Lincoln dealer meeting in Las Vegas this month, Ford Motor Co. top brass addressed nearly 1,000 dealers and sales managers, introduced the luxury brand's new management lineup and showed a brand-positioning video that delineated what Lincoln wants to be and what customers it wants to attract.
The meeting's bottom line: The newly christened "Lincoln Motor Co." will be a separate unit with new management and a clear mission as it prepares for the market launch of the redesigned 2013 MKZ sedan next month.
For starters, Lincoln's sales operation no longer will report through Ken Czubay, Ford's North American sales, marketing and service chief, though elements of Czubay's organization will still support Lincoln dealers.
Instead, Lincoln's sales operation will report through Matt VanDyke, recently named global head of Lincoln marketing, sales and service.
Ford brass in attendance included COO-designate Mark Fields, new President of Americas Joe Hinrichs, product development chief Raj Nair, and, via teleconference, Ford CEO Alan Mulally. Perhaps even more important, dealers heard from Lincoln's new management team, including global Lincoln leader -- and the automaker's head of global marketing, sales and service -- Jim Farley and VanDyke, who reports to Farley.
The move to separate the luxury brand from the volume Ford business now runs from management all the way through to the showroom floor, where dual Ford-Lincoln dealers will have dedicated sales personnel.
"As a dual dealer, I work for Ford Motor Co. and Lincoln Motor Co.," said Terry Massey, general manager of Ken Stoepel Ford-Lincoln in Kerrville, Texas. "They made a point that there are 200 people who wake up and think about nothing but Lincoln."
David Mondragon, general marketing manager of Ford and Lincoln, said the company has had people dedicated to Lincoln before, "but now it's from the top of the house."
The meeting was held at the Wynn, a luxury hotel and casino that epitomizes the kind of service Lincoln wants to offer its new target: the progressive luxury customer. Dealers heard an inspirational speech from Steve Wynn, the owner.
"When Farley stands up and talks, you can tell he's passionate about the brand. It bleeds out of him," said Chris Lemley, dealer principal of Sentry Auto Group, which owns three Boston-area Lincoln stores. Lemley said he had been skeptical before the meeting.
Dealers were shown the brand-positioning video and a sneak peek at Lincoln's upcoming launch campaign for the MKZ. Automotive News viewed the video clips, which evoke Henry Ford's son, Edsel Ford, as well as the visionary prototype of the modern customer the new Lincoln wants to lure. Even Abraham Lincoln, or at least an actor portraying him, makes an appearance.
"If the commercials are half as good as the positioning video, they'll be good," Lemley said.
The sneak preview of the upcoming commercial campaign was presented by Jon Pearce, chief creative officer of Lincoln's recently formed New York-based ad agency owned by WPP, the same conglomerate that owns Ford's Team Detroit agency. The Lincoln agency does not have a name yet.
Mondragon said Lincoln dealers will start receiving their first 2013 MKZs in the second half of December, with larger volumes coming after the first of the year.