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Lincoln gets own design studio

Tue, 16 Aug 2011

Ford is creating a dedicated design studio for its luxury brand Lincoln in an ongoing bid to rejuvenate the brand and position it further apart from the core Ford offering.

The new design studio will be situated in the Product Development Center in Dearborn, Michigan, with Max Wolff – recruited from Cadillac last year – charged with leading the brand in its revival efforts. Ford has also announced that it will be increasing spending on the brand, giving it unique interiors and powertrains.

In recent years Lincoln has been criticized by those who claim that the luxury cars they design and manufacture are too reminiscent of the cheaper vehicles that make up the Ford range. As such Lincoln's influence within the luxury car market has dwindled and remains largely confined to the USA.

Lincoln has so far spent $1 billion on the development of up to seven new or updated models to be introduced by 2014. The brand is receiving a further boost in terms of advertising spend.

The first of Lincoln's new wave of products will be previewed in the form of a concept version of the new Lincoln MKZ, which is likely to be show at the 2012 Detroit auto show. It will preview the next generation of the production Lincoln MKZ, a car which will be launched in 2013 and which it is thought Wolff arrived in time to have signifcant input into the design of.

Ford is clearly hoping to take a leaf out of the book of its rival General Motors, who were criticized in the 80s and 90s for allowing the Cadillac brand to decay in value and the products to become too similar to other GM stable products. That changed in 1999, when the Cadillac brand began to show concept cars under the ‘Art and Science' design direction, which is still used by the company to this day.

What isn't clear, however, is whether this is a signifier that Ford has ambitions to expand Lincoln into other markets. Given the break up of the premier automotive group (PAG) with the sale of Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin, we asked J Mays, Group Vice President of Global Design and Chief Creative Officer at Ford about what plans the company had for expanding Lincoln during an interview over a year ago. His response then was to simply say that Lincoln was "still doing its homework".

Related Articles:
Who's Where? Max Wolff to become Design Director at Lincoln
Design Review: Lincoln C Concept

By Rufus Thompson