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Roger Sterling, Symbol of Corporate Fecklessness, to be Face of Lincoln Brand

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Now that Ford has killed off its midmarket Mercury brand, it desperately needs Lincoln, your grandpa’s car of choice, to regain the prestige it held a few decades ago and actually compete with foreign luxury brands like Lexus and BMW.

To help kick off that effort, they’ve hired John Slattery, also known as Roger Sterling from AMC’s “Mad Men,” as the new face of the brand, in a campaign with the tagline “Smarter than Luxury.”

So Lincoln, whose chief criticism has been lackluster engineering and peddling vehicles that are little more than chrome-enhanced versions of Ford models, will be associated with a character who symbolizes American corporate fecklessness and trading on one’s family name rather than putting in the work required to build a business. (Not to mention getting bombed on Canadian Club during the day.)

Sure sounds smart to us.

We won’t really know whether a Lincoln turnaround is possible for several years, since Ford is just now putting a team in place to develop vehicles specifically for the brand. As the Detroit Free Press’s Mark Phelan notes, it looks like an uphill fight:

General Motors reinvented Cadillac by developing a platform specifically to challenge BMW and Mercedes' technology, handling and comfort. Cadillac's renaissance cost billions. It's taken more than a decade, and it's still a work in progress.

GM is now trying to push Buick upmarket -- but not as far upmarket as Cadillac is or Lincoln aspires to be. Buick will use the engineering and design strength of GM's European and Chinese units as it develops a new, more contemporary and luxurious model line.

Lincoln looks badly under-resourced by comparison. There's no unique platform coming to provide sport-sedan handling and performance. It has no profitable or high-volume brands in Europe and Asia to lean on.

POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.