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Old 10-27-2005, 05:59   #1 (permalink)
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US:Lincoln carves out new future


Lincoln Aviator


Lincoln Zephyr

Lincoln carves out new future

Ford hopes bold design reinvents luxury brand

By Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News



NEW YORK -- With the launch of the Lincoln Zephyr sedan and the unveiling of the new Lincoln Aviator crossover, Ford Motor Co. has begun a reinvention of its luxury marque that is all about capturing the spirit of American achievement and optimism, albeit with an assist from a British designer and Japanese engineering.

Lincoln was once the best-selling luxury brand in the United States but has seen its sales decline amid the resurgence of General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac brand and fast-growing foreign brands.

Ford has struggled to make Lincoln relevant again but with little success. So far this year, Lincoln sales have fallen 10 percent.

"We've kind of lost our way," said Elena Ford, the company's director of North American product marketing, planning and strategy. "Product is always what brings you back."

The person in charge of designing that product is Peter Horbury, Ford's executive director of design and the man credited with giving Volvo its new strong-shouldered look.

Elena Ford -- great-great-granddaughter of Henry Ford and cousin of Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. -- said she is counting on the British-born designer to work the same magic with Lincoln.

The first step, Horbury said, was figuring out what Lincoln means as a brand. "I think first and foremost, it's American," he said.

To Horbury, that means optimism and achievement, Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Edison, the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge.

"I have to find a way of translating all these positive qualities of America into sheet metal," he said, adding that the new Aviator is a good start.

Horbury said the current Aviator -- like other SUVs with their high seats and long hoods -- evokes the Conestoga wagon and the stagecoach. He said the future Aviator was designed to conjure images of fighter jocks, poised for takeoff on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Elena Ford admits all this talk about Americana can sound a little strange in a British accent, but she said the fact that Horbury is not American actually gives him a unique ability to distill the essence of this country and its culture.

"He sees things differently than we do," she said. "He got on this whole American Dream thing with me the other day. I'm like, 'I get it, I get it.'"

Officially, the Zephyr inaugurates Lincoln's new look and the Aviator underlines it.

Taken together, Horbury said, they point the way to Lincoln's future -- smaller, sleeker and more fuel-efficient. Horbury offers measured praise for the Zephyr, whose design was all but finished when he was asked to begin Lincoln's makeover 20 months ago. He's more enthusiastic about the Aviator, which he was able to put his imprint on.

Lincoln also has promised two new large sedans will be coming in the future. The new Aviator bears little resemblance to the current version -- a big, boxy SUV built on the same platform as the Ford Explorer. It's a curvy crossover based on the Japanese-built Mazda6.

Horbury said it was designed to capture the spirit of the "memorable Lincolns of old" in a thoroughly modern package.

The 2007 model will officially be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January and is expected to be in dealer showrooms next fall.

The Aviator breaks with many of Lincoln's styling cues, which Horbury found too restrictive.

"America is nothing if not diverse," Horbury said, adding that he wants to mirror that in his designs. "I don't see the reason why we have to keep the same design on every car."

He also wants to see Lincoln move into new market sectors.

"What's to say that's the smallest Lincoln of all?" Horbury asked, pointing to the Zephyr. "The design department is deeply involved, not just in how the vehicle should look, but in what the vehicle should be."

With the Zephyr shipping in volume and the introduction of the new Aviator, 2006 promises to be a big year for Lincoln.

"Next year is our growth year," said Lincoln Mercury President Al Giombetti.

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Old 10-31-2005, 05:19   #2 (permalink)
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Re: US:Lincoln carves out new future,says large sedans to come

Lincoln counting on Zephyr, Aviator to launch sales recovery, says large sedans to come

AMY WILSON | Automotive News

NEW YORK -- Next year will mark the beginning of Lincoln's sales recovery, Ford Motor Co. executives predict.

The 2006 Zephyr sedan and 2007 Aviator sport wagon will carry the struggling luxury brand to its first annual sales increase since 2003, they say.

Lincoln's turnaround will depend mostly on the Zephyr, which went on sale this fall. The Aviator won't go on sale until late next year.

The two vehicles "begin the progression of Lincoln being relevant in the marketplace again," Elena Ford, Ford's director of North America product marketing, planning and strategy, said at a press event here last week. Executives won't say how much of a sales increase they expect.

In 1990, Lincoln sales peaked at 231,660 units. The best the luxury unit has done since then was 193,009 sales in 2000. Aside from a brief upturn in 2003, sales have fallen steadily this decade. Through September, Lincoln sales totaled 93,700 units, down 10.1 percent from the year-ago period.

More models

It will take more than the Zephyr and Aviator to return the brand to glory.

Lincoln will introduce more vehicles after 2006. Two large sedans will go on sale starting in 2007. At least one of the sedans is likely to appear as a concept car at the Detroit auto show in January.
With those two sedans, Lincoln aims to revive its bread-and-butter large-car business.

Lincoln also is developing a people mover and is studying a sporty coupe based on the Ford Mustang.

Lincoln has said it wants to boost retail sales to 200,000 annually. By the end of the decade, dealers will have at least eight Lincoln nameplates in their showrooms, company executives have said.
That's up from six today -- the Aviator, LS, Town Car, Navigator, Zephyr and Mark LT. The truck-based Aviator ended production in July, and the LS sedan will be discontinued next year.

Improvements for the Mark LT pickup also are likely down the road. Lincoln sold 5,927 units of the lightly reworked Ford F-150 from its February debut through September. That's well behind its annual target of 20,000 units.

Said Elena Ford: "We could do more to Lincoln-ize it, frankly."
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My next Ford.....
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