Wednesday, December 12, 2012

1108 Lincoln

Surprise!  This is about the car, not the movie.

Ford, the only American carmaker operating without a bailout from the government and/or a deep pockets foreign buyer, made its way through the great Detroit upheaval by building relatively good stuff and carefully building up its bank account.

It’s remarkable, even more so, because the guy who kept them on track, Alan Mulally, a former Boeing executive, had zero background in the business, though you can argue that running a major aircraft maker is similar work.

As his era runs out -- retirement looms -- Mulally is leaving behind a winning record, but certainly not a perfect one.  Two things loom beside his stepping down:  the horrible electronic interface on the cars and the superannuation of  the Lincoln brand, at least in the mind of potential buyers.

The slow-to-respond, geeky touch screen system they have is only slightly worse than everyone else’s. They’ll fix it after enough drivers get distracted using it and crash into something or someone.

Lincoln is another story.  They’re re-imaging the brand and fancying up the cars but it remains to be seen whether this all is window dressing and whether it’ll work.

They’ve created a new mini ad agency called Hudson Rouge to promote Lincoln and it’s off to an awkward start with a print ad that asks “Does the world need another luxury car?  Not really.”   What?  The ad -- black type on lots of white space -- also says “...this is how we will become great again.”  An admission that it isn’t?  Unusual.  But not as unusual as “not really.”

“Not really” says “we’re making this car, see, and since you have a bazillion other choices, don’t bother with us.”

You think the guys who buy Lexus and Audi and BMW are going to swap those for a gussied up Taurus with a glass roof and leather seats? Not a chance.

In fairness, Cadillac no longer is much of a contender in the luxury field, either.  

Why do people buy Lexus?  Well... it’s pretty.  It IS luxurious.  But the main reason is all that plus when you turn it on, it starts.  When you step on the gas, it goes.  When you step on the brakes, it stops.  Boringly, it does this time and time and time again.

Instead of bells and whistles and Benz Envy, Lincoln should look in the mirror.  There, it might see a glimpse of their real competitor, the one great -- great -- car they ever built:  the 1956 Continental.  Small enough to drive.  Practically handmade.  A decent competitor against everyone else.  Came wrapped in cloth. Did that boring start-go-stop thing better than anything else Ford built before or since.

That’s the benchmark, guys.  

And by the way:  Mentioning Edsel in print -- even if it’s only the guy, not the car? -- that’s not a good idea.  Edsel Ford knew cars, alright.  But the car itself remains a laughing stock.

Shrapnel:

--Why is it the shipping lines never offer free shipping?  For that matter why is sending a package via the post office or one of the private carriers called “shipping” in the first place.  And you can ship by train, but you can’t train by ship.

--Ahah!  Half the packages for which you pay shipping and handling are never actually handled.  They come from the factory pre-boxed for the carrier, picked from warehouse shelves and labeled by robots.

--The Stage Deli on 7th Av. is closing although someone surely will buy the rights to the name.  They’d better hurry if they’re going to occupy the restaurant’s present space.  That’s because the owners of the cholesterol pipeline are getting ready to close it down, a long and arduous process.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

No comments: