Ford's Alan Mulally Nearly Killed Lincoln

Illustration for article titled Ford's Alan Mulally Nearly Killed Lincoln

We now live in an era where you can buy a rear-wheel drive, V8 powered luxury sedan from Kia, but not from Lincoln. No one was more aware of how Lincoln lagged behind Ford's current success than outgoing CEO Alan Mulally, who according to a new report considered killing the brand off entirely.

That's what Bloomberg says in this report about Mullaly's departure this week from the top job at Ford, and the ascension of Mark Fields to the same position.

Lincoln, with U.S. sales down 65 percent from a 1990 peak, is such a big money loser for Ford that Mulally suggested killing it last year, according to two people familiar with the internal discussions. Chief Operating Officer Fields, set to become CEO tomorrow when Mulally retires, convinced his boss that Lincoln was worth saving, to give Ford buyers a luxury brand to move up to when they're ready to spend more, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.


So the folks at Lincoln are probably quite glad to have Fields take the CEO job, because he seems to be an advocate for the brand. And with Mulally leaving Ford in good shape, making Lincoln competitive again could be one way for Fields to leave his mark.

Then again, would it have been a great loss if Mullaly had axed Lincoln? As that Bloomberg piece (and everyone else) notes, not only does Lincoln not even come close to contributing for Ford's bottom line, most of the Lincolns in recent years have just been gussied-up Fords. Do they really need a brand like that?

Sure, it would be sad to watch another storied American marque die off, but it's also one that hasn't really done a whole lot since the Continentals of the 1960s.

But the people at Lincoln seem to realize that Lincoln needs unique products and clever marketing to get back in the game. (I'd add revised names and styling to that list too, but that's just me.) They're hoping that will start with the new Lincoln MKC crossover.


Can Mark Fields bring Lincoln back from the brink? And if so, how?

Hat tip to TTAC!

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Patrick George

A lot of us would like to see Lincoln follow Cadillac's lead with some good rear-drive luxury and performance sedans. But while Cadillac's lineup is outstanding, their sales really aren't that great compared to German rivals and Lexus.

What I'm saying is this: If Lincoln can even do the "American luxury" thing, will people buy into it? Or have we permanently ceded that to Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Lexus?