How Lincoln is trying to reinvent luxury car brand
(CBS News) The Lincoln Continental is one of the auto industry's legendary models, but over the years, Lincoln customers got old and the car maker went into a slump.
Now, this Ford division is going back to its original name, the Lincoln Motor Company. It's also unveiling a new luxury sedan -- with a lot riding on it.
With its showy spectacle, the Los Angeles Auto Show is the perfect place to relaunch a brand that's long been branded as boring.
The new Lincoln MKZ is the car the company is hoping will make it stand out in the luxury car category.
Automotive analyst John McElroy says BMW and Audi own the category Lincoln is trying to compete in. He said the sales pitch for American car makers in the luxury market is "real tough."
"Lincoln's at the bottom right now, especially of the luxury segment," McElroy said. "Lincoln's ownership, literally, is dying off. They had cars that were designed for older people."
In 1990, Lincoln sold 200,000 vehicles -- that had dropped to just 85,000 last year. But Ford is reportedly giving Lincoln $1 billion to get back on the right road.
Matt Van Dyke, director of the global Lincoln brand, said, "It's more than just a car, it really has to be an entirely new presentation of the Lincoln brand, it's the client experience, it's the treatment, it's how we go to market, it's how we present the vehicles."
It's a reinvention Buick and Cadillac have also been trying with the unveiling of sporty new luxury models, yet sales for both brands are down this year. Buick is down 0.7 percent and Cadillac is down 6.4 percent, while the auto industry overall is up 14 percent, according to car buying guide website Edmunds.com.
Part of Lincoln's sales pitch is to try to remind us that they used to be cool. So they've brought out a 1956 Lincoln Continental that once belonged to Elizabeth Taylor, painted the color of her eyes.
Lincoln is trading on 90 years of history and loyalty, hoping drivers will once again think Lincoln stands for luxury.
For Ben Tracy's full report, watch the video in the player above.
Alan Mulally, Ford president and chief executive officer, has entrusted that reinvention to Jim Farley, global head of Lincoln. Mulally said of Farley on "CBS This Morning" Monday, "Jim is known around the world for his experience on the luxury brands. To have Jim now lead the reinvention of Lincoln is very exciting and, you know, all good companies have a tremendous luxury premium brand associated with them also. This is our chance to really bring Lincoln back."
In addition to Lincoln, Mulally also addressed the "fiscal cliff" and his assessment of the president's performance. For all that and more, watch the video in the player below.
Farley, who also appeared on "CTM," said he's working to surprise people with the new Lincolns. "The new MKZ, a hybrid version, 45 miles per gallon, most fuel-efficient sedan in America. We have to innovate the experience. People expect to be treated differently, especially after The Great Recession."
He added, "It's such a competitive industry, especially in the luxury industry. But it's growing. And it's very important for our company, not just here in the U.S., but internationally. The other thing that's important is there is room for a new brand like Lincoln. After The Great Recession, customers are really reconsidering how they buy a luxury car."
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