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Ford CEO: Luxury market has room for Lincoln

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 13, 2013 at 12:54 am •  Published: January 13, 2013

Mulally: It's just a huge change in the number of people who want premium but they want affordable premium. That's the answer to your question, because you've got these guys up here (holds hand up high) and you've got these huge numbers in between.

Farley: And on the time side, we think of it kind of like "Get Smart," where you're walking through all those doors. The first step of the journey requires the transformation of the lineup, all new products, completely differentiated, exclusive drivetrain and exclusive dealership facilities and people who are only selling Lincolns. And until you do those, you really aren't starting the journey to being a really premium player. We are totally focused on that first step. I don't know how many doors — opportunities — we have. Our sights are not to be the biggest, to sell 200,000 to 300,000 units. That's not our goal. Our goal is to take the solid footing we have from Lincoln and now start that march toward a really premium brand.

Mulally: We're not in a hurry. The dealers are in place. We make a reasonable return on the Lincoln vehicles. It's not like anybody's panicking.

AP: Ford recalled the Escape four times after it went on sale for various safety issues. The Lincoln launches will have to be flawless. How do you ensure that?

Mulally: I would say that your comment is absolutely right. It has to be, across Ford and Lincoln. Ford is so excited on one hand. You know how many years these companies have been declining. We've turned that corner. We were the first ones to turn it. We're growing now. The growth is spectacular, here and around the world. So now we're turning the corner, adding production, adding third shifts, second shifts, and last June we weren't able to keep up with the demand. And then we have all these launches, because we made a commitment that we are going to have the best-in-class quality, fuel efficiency and safety. So every time we don't, then we're going to stop just like we did. We'll come pick them up, we'll do whatever it takes. We'll get it right for you right away. I think the most important thing is our commitment to quality. But it's an exhilarating time.

AP: You just changed Lincoln's name to the Lincoln Motor Co. and began a new ad campaign. What impact are you seeing?

Farley: More important to me than how is it affecting demand for Lincoln vehicles is that more and more people are talking about Lincoln. We're getting more online discussion. A lot more people are saying, "Lincoln. What is that? Who are they? What are they doing?" That is good. That was very much part of the initiative of the Lincoln Motor Co. When I talk to Gucci and Burberry, brands that were very big in the '70s and then recommitted themselves, they all said the same thing to me: "Jim, make sure that you start a conversation around Lincoln." And that's part of our expectation for the Super Bowl.

AP: There are a lot of naysayers out there, including GM's CEO Dan Akerson, who have suggested Lincoln has fallen too far to be revived. What do you say to that?

Mulally: I just believe Jim's vision that he laid out, when we decided to focus on Ford and Lincoln, so we had a great volume brand for everybody and a premium brand. And then let each one do the talking. I wouldn't go out and bad mouth things. Let each of them do their thing and tell everybody that this is the brand promise. You can't get in that car (hybrid MKZ) and operate it and get out of it and not go, "Wow. That's a different experience." And there are people — there are a lot of people — who want that experience, they want that innovative technology and they want to access it. They don't want to pay $100,000. And Ford can do that. Ford can really do that.