HUDSON: One industry that has seen several thousand new jobs added
since the fall is the auto industry. One aging auto brand is getting a face
lift: Lincoln. It`s been losing buyers over the last decade, but Ford
isn`t giving up on it yet. At the North American international auto show
this week, the company unveiled Lincoln`s makeover, including new products,
upgraded dealerships and new marketing. But is it too little, too late for
Lincoln? Diane Eastabrook tonight reports from Detroit.
EASTABROOK: At Detroit`s Cobo Hall, a six-piece orchestra performed,
mimosas flowed and waiters made the rounds with trays of hors d`oeuvres. A
charity ball, perhaps? Not quite. It was a prelude to the introduction of
Lincoln`s MKZ concept, a sleek sedan with a panoramic roof that`s expected
to hit showrooms this fall. The MKZ is the first step in Ford`s reinvention
of the Lincoln brand. Mark Fields, Ford`s president at the Americas (ph)
wants Lincoln to be synonymous with luxury.
MARK FIELDS, PRESIDENT OF AMERICAS, FORD MOTOR CO.: We`re looking at not only other auto makers, but we`re looking at Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN), Ritz Carlton, those kinds of things, because that`s where these luxury customers do their business today and they expected to be treated in a certain way.
EASTABROOK: The company has its work cut out for it. Lincoln sales
are down 35 percent from where they were just five years ago. The problem
with Lincoln isn`t the quality of its products, but it`s stodgy image.
Analysts say the average Lincoln owner is eligible for Social Security.
Younger, hipper, more affluent buyers have been gravitating to edgier
imports like , which earlier this week rolled
out the Q-3 crossover. Industry watchers say Lincoln is competing in
perhaps the most cutthroat vehicle segment.
JESSE TOPRAK, VP, INDUSTRY TRENDS, TRUECAR.COM: Conquesting (ph) in the luxury market is one of the toughest tasks for any manufacturer because it is so competitive and it`s really based on really consumers` buying image versus content or the metal.
EASTABROOK: Ford admits part of Lincoln`s image problem begins at
its dealerships. Many haven`t had facelifts in years. Field says the
company will be helping dealers make upgrades, but most of the investment
will be on employee training, not facilities.
FIELDS: We know it`s very competitive out there and everything we do
at Lincoln — every product, every service that we introduce, every
interaction that the consumer has with Lincoln — we want to make sure it`s
a positive one in a big way.
EASTABROOK: Ford is convinced there is still life in Lincoln. The
company plans to roll out seven new products over the next few years,
including the MKZ. The trick now is convincing younger buyers a brand they
think is old can still play a new tune. Diane Eastabrook, NIGHTLY BUSINESS