J Mays: Lincoln Faces Tough Road Ahead

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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