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Auto blogWed, 28 Aug 2013 18:59:00 EST
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.
A great many buyers fled from full-size body-on-frame SUVs to car-based crossovers in large measure to save fuel. But that doesn't mean there's still not a buying audience for more traditional truck-based utility vehicles, and those consumers doubtlessly wouldn't mind saving some dollars at the pump, too. According to Motor Trend, those shoppers might be in luck.
That's because the magazine has confirmed that Ford isn't walking away from the full-size SUV segment, and it's poised to do something about its offerings' economy ratings, too. According to MT, global Lincoln director Matt VanDyke has hinted that the next Navigator may drop two cylinders and go with a V6 model - the current model gets just 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway from its 5.4-liter V8. The obvious fitment would be Ford's 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, an engine that has spread like kudzu throughout the rest of the Blue Oval's large vehicle lineup.
Downsized turbocharged engines like Ford's EcoBoost franchise have come under fire as of late for not delivering their EPA fuel economy ratings, but their benefits extend beyond consumption - the 3.5L offers superior power and a better torque curve than the naturally aspirated V8. MT also suggests that Ford's 3.7-liter V6 could form the base engine for the next Navi - it has similar horsepower but a lot less torque than the current 5.4L. That may be less of a problem with the next generation tipped to go on a diet, which could level the playing field somewhat.
Fiat Chairman John Elkann has been turning to an unusual source for advice on the car business. While speaking during an interview with The Detroit News, Elkann said he often asks Bill Ford Jr. for advice on how to proceed with the turnaround at Chrysler. "It's great to have the opportunity to share this with someone like Bill, who has experienced many things and gone through many things ... especially linked to Detroit." Elkann said.
As the Agnelli family heir, Elkann has inherited a long and fruitful friendship with the Ford family. While Giovanni Agnelli built his first Fiat four years before Henry Ford created his first vehicle, it was Ford that showed Agnelli the benefits of mass production and helped pave the way for what would become the Fiat empire.
Giovanni's grandson, Gianni, helped mentor Bill Ford when he was elected chairman of Ford Motor Company. Now, Ford is returning the favor by helping Elkann navigate the automotive industry's tumultuous waters.