J Mays: Lincoln Faces Tough Road Ahead

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Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. design chief J Mays speaks out on the strug­gling Lin­coln brand, say­ing “no, we’re not true lux­ury” at least not at this point in the Lin­coln journey.

Get the details on what J Mays and other ana­lysts have to say.

A top Ford Motor Co. exec­u­tive says the automaker’s strug­gling Lin­coln brand is “not true lux­ury,” and faces a tough road back that will take years.

J Mays, Ford’s design chief, said the company’s focus on rebuild­ing Lin­coln has only just begun — and that Lincoln’s rein­ven­tion could take a decade.

“No, we’re not true lux­ury,” Mays said Tues­day fol­low­ing an event at the automaker’s Dear­born cam­pus. “We’re in an invest­ment stage with Lin­coln. We’ve prob­a­bly got a 10-year invest­ment to make.”

Lux­ury brand trans­for­ma­tions can take many decades, as it did for Gen­eral Motors’ Cadil­lac. Mays’ procla­ma­tion that Lin­coln is “not true lux­ury” is evi­dence Lin­coln still lacks definition.

“It’s def­i­nitely a wanna-be lux­ury brand,” said Michelle Krebs, senior ana­lyst at auto­mo­tive research firm Edmunds.com, who likened Lin­coln to other strug­gling lux­ury brands such as Infiniti and Acura. “It’s not there, though, by any stretch.”

Jim Hall, ana­lyst at 2953 Ana­lyt­ics LLP, another research com­pany, said in a tele­phone inter­view that he agrees: Lin­coln does not rep­re­sent true lux­ury. But Hall also said Lin­coln — which he believes needs at least three decades to return to its glory days of the late 1980s and early 1990s — is com­pet­ing against other not-quite lux­ury brands.

“Most lux­ury brands today aren’t lux­ury brands,” Hall said. “They’ve become luxury-branded prod­ucts. Many are think­ing of lux­ury as a series of check­lists, but the tra­di­tional def­i­n­i­tion of lux­ury has a degree of exclusivity.”

Now that automak­ers offer lux­u­ri­ous fea­tures such as leather seats in most mass-market mod­els, Hall said the brand­ing of the cur­rent crop of lux­ury vehi­cles is more com­pa­ra­ble to sell­ing smart­phones than to the high-end cars of the past.

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