Automotive > Will China Lead Lincoln Back?

| April 1, 2015


NEW YORK — The Big Apple is still the nation’s largest luxury-car market. And Lincoln is wooing New Yorkers this week with a Lincoln Continental concept car at the New York International Auto Show that is wowing some automotive cognoscenti and is encouraging Ford executives that they made the right call by salvaging their luxury brand even when former ace CEO Alan Mulallly wanted to deep-six it late in his tenure.

But don’t expect Ford to take a possible next step and move the Lincoln brand headquarters to New York City, the way that General Motors is moving Cadillac.

“We like Lincoln exactly where it is,” Ford CEO Mark Fields told reporters Sunday night at an event in New York to show off the concept Continental that is being displayed at the show, according to the Detroit News. “We’re committed to Lincoln as a world-class luxury brand. That means we all have to own this, and we all do, and I think it’s very important for us. It works well when you have the marketing folks, the product planners, the engineers all working closely together because you don’t end up throwing things over a wall — you are all doing things together as a team.”

Of course, that’s exactly the reason that Cadillac CEO Johan de Nysschen decided to get Mary Barra’s blessing to move the senior leadership and marketing staff to New York City from the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit: In order to get the brand back on track, as contrasted with its worthy vehicles, Cadillac wanted to break the typical Motown mindset and ensconce its brandmeisters in Manhattan, the largest and most diverse luxury market in the world. And, of course, Cadillac’s new advertising campaign, under the “Dare Greatly” theme, has embraced a New York vibe all the more.

But while Ford is paying homage to the New York City luxury market by unveiling the Continental concept at the show there, it’s not trying to create a Gotham City vibe for Lincoln. There’s also the fact that Ford already moved Lincoln headquarters once, in 1998, to Los Angeles, as part of the company’s Premier Automotive Group that also included Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. As Premier splintered, Ford moved Lincoln back to Dearborn, Michigan, in 2002.

Besides, as Forbes writer Joann Muller observed, it’s likely that Ford’s most important target for the Lincoln Continental concept — assuming something like it turns into a production car — may well be Chinese luxury buyers, not American. They like huge rear seats in China, and Lincoln is trying to sell cars there for the first time ever.


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