Ford CEO: No plans to move Lincoln brand

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

New York — Ford CEO Mark Fields said the Dearborn automaker has no plans to move its Lincoln luxury brand to New York after its domestic rival made the move.

He added that the company is committed to the revival of Lincoln.

General Motors Co. in September announced it was moving the headquarters of its luxury Cadillac brand to New York City. Cadillac will relocate June 1 to New York. GM CEO Mary Barra cited New York's role in setting trends.

"We like Lincoln exactly where it is," Fields told reporters Sunday night at an event here to show off the concept Lincoln Continental that will be displayed at the New York International Auto Show.

"We're committed to Lincoln as a world-class luxury brand. That means we all have to own this, and we all do, and I think it's very important for us. It works well when you have the marketing folks, the product planners, the engineers all working closely together because you don't end up throwing things over a wall — you are all doing things together as a team."

Cadillac announced its plans to establish a global brand headquarters in New York to help the 112-year-old brand re-establish itself as a dominant global luxury player in a competitive market. The idea, Cadillac chief Johan de Nysschen explained in January, was to put distance between the rest of GM and Cadillac and do so in a city that is the epicenter of luxury and could help GM better understand target customers. Some Detroit community members and politicians were disappointed and criticized the move.

GM has redesigned the Cadillac business, which will operate as a separate business unit of GM. The automaker plans to invest $12 billion into Cadillac by the end of the decade, as it adds eight all-new vehicles, including SUVs. Cadillac's U.S. sales fell 6.5 percent last year, but its global sales inched up 5 percent.

Ford moved its Lincoln brand to California in 1998 as part of its Premier Automotive Group and moved the brand back to Dearborn in 2002.

But Fields said that while California sets many trends, Fields thinks New York helps set trends in luxury vehicles and luxury items. That's why Fields said Ford is showing off the Lincoln Continental concept at the New York International Auto Show on Wednesday, with plans to build a production version next year.

Fields said the automaker is positioning Lincoln as "quiet luxury" as part of the "whole ownership experience." It's about an elegant experience with the highest quality technology, styling and materials.

"We want the brand to represent the themes around this quiet luxury ... call it serene and relaxing but almost really to kind of chill when you get into the vehicle. Life becomes a little less stressful," Fields said.

Fields also said Ford last year opted not to bid for the next generation presidential limousine. For much of the 20th century, the presidential limousine was a Lincoln — and often a Continental. But since the early 1980s, the limousine has been a Cadillac.

"One of the reasons Lincoln is held in high regard is they remember the presidential limousine, they remember the actors and actresses that drove them," Fields said.

But a company only has so many resources and has to make choices, Fields said. "Let's not dilute ourselves," Fields said, explaining the decision.