DEARBORN, MI – Ford’s Lincoln division has a long way to go in reestablishing itself as a modern luxury brand, and no one knows this better than Andy Georgescu.
Speaking at this week’s WardsAuto Interiors Conference on a panel session about the future of luxury, Lincoln’s product marketing manager says repeatedly the brand is not in a position yet to compete head-to-head with entrenched premium auto makers.
When asked by a member of the audience how luxury brands can extend beyond automobiles to other lifestyle experiences and perhaps the home, Georgescu says Lincoln cannot yet consider such a concept.
“We have enough trouble getting right what we’re trying to do right now,” he says. “I think before we go anywhere else, we need to deliver a superior automotive experience.”
The question has been pondered internally at Lincoln because successful luxury brands have managed to grow beyond sheet metal.
“Do we want to get into concierge services, booking flights, making restaurant reservations as part of delivering a luxury experience?” Georgescu asks. “At least our learning is, stay true to what you do – delivering a superior luxury automotive experience and deliver that flawlessly and consistently over time before you tackle something else.”
Sales figures support his modesty. Through April, Lincoln sold 23,514 vehicles, down 13.4% from like-2012, according to WardsAuto data. Every other luxury brand outsold Lincoln in the period by a wide margin, except Porsche, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover.
But Georgescu says Lincoln sees an opening by catering to “cultural progressives” who have a strong sense of responsibility, like to try new things, believe in building relationships and want to contribute something to society – people like Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Most importantly, Georgescu believes cultural progressives are underserved and lack connection to any particular luxury automotive brand.
“They tell us quite clearly and consistently, ‘if you resonate with me personally, I will experiment with your brand regardless of the perception of the brand in the external world,’” he says.
For the past three years, Lincoln has spoken with thousands of these customers and has learned they love travel, new dining experiences and communing with nature. “They really enjoy farm-to-table and love hearing about different ways the restaurant provides produce to have the customer experience,” Georgescu says.
He identifies himself as “one of these people” and tells the story of dining at a popular restaurant in Boston called No.9 Park, where the butter comes to the table “compliments of Bessie. You say, ‘Who is Bessie?’ Bessie is the cow that the restaurant owns that supplies the butter to the restaurant.
“I think that’s the coolest thing, and when it comes to actually making a luxury choice, the fact that I have a relationship with a cow named Bessie – God’s honest truth – it actually drives my decision. That links me to the restaurant in a very unique way. It’s meaningful.”
In shaping the future luxury market, Georgescu sees the “rise of the Millennials,” who tend to be more optimistic, empathic and collaborative than past generations.
“We see the rise of women as a global power and force, the global rising of the middle class, the global consciousness,” he says. “All of these things together – we think the paradigm is shifting, changing.
“When we look at where we want to be as a brand, we’re just inventing who we are. We see a point in difference in creating a really warm and personal brand, combining new ideas, progressive ideas with very human, intuitive and warm products. And we see that as a place for us to differentiate from many of the established luxury auto brands in the industry today.”