Unique Looks for Lincoln
Design boss favors different sheet metal, launch schedule from Ford vehicles
By AMY WILSON | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS
The Lincoln MKZ needs to look different from the Ford Fusion it shares many parts with.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- In the future, Lincoln vehicles should sport mostly distinct exterior sheet metal and be introduced on a separate timetable from their Ford platform mates, Ford Motor Co.'s top U.S. designer says.
Lincoln and Mercury vehicle styling must diverge more sharply from that of their Ford-brand siblings, said Peter Horbury, North American design chief for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury.
The automaker has more work to do to separate the look of its domestic-brand vehicles, which are increasingly being built on common platforms, Horbury said.
"The next step is to be independent in the areas you can see, touch and feel," said Horbury, who was interviewed at a press event here. "We're more than half way but not all the way."
The Lincoln MKS sedan, which will go on sale in 2008, will be the best example of separation, he said.
Based on the same platform as the Ford Five Hundred sedan, the concept version of the MKS shares "not a single piece" of its exterior with the Ford, Horbury said. The Five Hundred went on sale in 2004, and an updated version is due by mid-2007.
"To be honest, the more differentiation we can create, the more we can build a stronger brand for Lincoln, which stands on its own," Horbury said. "It also helps to make the Fords look like something else, like something special."
The level of exterior differentiation on other future Lincolns probably will fall somewhere between the MKS and the 2007 MKX crossover, he said. The MKX shares about 50 percent of its exterior sheet metal with the 2007 Ford Edge.
Finances dictate some level of commonality on Lincoln programs. "If you just use the (same) windows, you save a fortune," Horbury said.
Launching the vehicles on separate timetables will help divert attention from any similarities.
"There's no hiding the fact that the MKX is closely related to the Ford Edge and the MKZ is closely related to the (Ford) Fusion and the (Mercury) Milan," Horbury said. "But the way ahead will be a lot more individual."
Horbury said he has been somewhat surprised that the Zephyr, the MKZ's predecessor, has been accepted as a Lincoln and "not a Ford with a different grille." The sedan was launched as the Zephyr for the 2006 model year. It was given a new name, new engine and available all-wheel-drive for the 2007 model year.
Ford and Mercury vehicles are more likely to continue on closer launch timetables with more shared elements.
A distinct Mercury model would be nice, "but is it necessary?" Horbury said. Ford designers must make sure there is no confusion between the Fords and Mercurys, but they can do an awful lot with color and materials, he said.
Said Horbury: "If there's any confusion today, there will be less confusion going forward on what is a Lincoln, what is a Ford and what is a Mercury."