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Auto blogWed, 28 Aug 2013
Lincoln is "not true luxury," according to Ford's design boss, J Mays. His statements come from a story in The Detroit News that saw candid language on the issues facing Ford's troubled premium brand. Notably, there's a need for a strong character, with Mays saying, "Every brand needs to have a DNA and a unique selling point and things in the vehicle that make you think, 'That's that particular brand.'"
With a range of rebadged Fords, it's not hard to see why that DNA is missing. Mays hinted that a full recovery for Lincoln will be a ten-year process, that's been kicked off with the MKZ sedan. While that car is still largely a Ford Fusion under its extremely pretty wrapper, it's the first Lincoln in some time to inject its own unique take both through the exterior styling and through interior features, such as the vertical, pushbutton gear selection.
Some analysts weren't so certain about Mays' 10-year estimate. Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics thinks it'll be more like 30 years before Lincoln can show a true return to form. The issue, as Hall explains it, is that, "luxury has a degree of exclusivity," that Lincoln just doesn't have. Michelle Krebs from Edmunds adds, "it's definitely a wanna-be luxury brand," comparing the troubled American brand with Infiniti and Acura, two other brands that have struggled to find their place in the luxury market.
While its crosstown competitors at General Motors are smarting over a drastic drop in net income to $200 million in the second quarter, Ford has reason to celebrate. The Blue Oval has announced its own Q2 financial results, including a growing net income of $1.3 billion, a $78 million increase over last year. Pretax profits for the company reached $2.6 billion, up $44 million from 2013, but total revenue dropped slightly to $37.4 billion, down from $37.9 billion. Profits per share before one-time charges totaled 40 cents per share, beating Wall Street analysts' expectations of 36 cents a share.
Regionally, the Blue Oval performed strongly, as well. North America posted a record quarterly pre-tax profit of $2.4 billion, a $119 million increase. Europe also showed signs of turn around with its first profit in three years of $14 million after a loss of $306 million in Q2 2013. Ford is actually predicting profitability in the troubled region in 2015. Asia Pacific operations also performed well with $159 million in profits, up $29 million from last year. The only region where the business posted a loss was South America.
According to Automotive News, Ford also announced more precise plans about the changeover to build the aluminum-intensive 2015 F-150. In August, the Dearborn plant will shutdown for eight weeks to retool and its Kansas City plant will do the same next year.
With more and more members of the Ford brand adopting a new familial face, the Focus has been left looking like an odd man out. At the Geneva Auto Show, though, it properly rejoined the family, adopting the now familiar Aston Martin-ish grille that's proliferated throughout the range.
Overall, we're liking the refreshed Focus' look. Aside from the new grille, the headlights have been restyled and now look like elongated versions of the lamps on the Focus ST. Functionally, those headlamps are bi-xenon units, complete with an adaptive front lighting system. Out back, the rear retains the same overall look, which has been smoothed out for 2015.
In the cabin, the second-generation of Ford's much-maligned Sync system makes its debut. Sync 2, as it's called, is supposedly more intuitive than the first-gen system. Ford is promising "one-shot" navigation functions for the system. Saying "I'm hungry," should bring up a list of nearby restaurants. Of course, we'll be reserving final judgment until we can test the new system in person.