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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