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Ford CEO: Luxury Market Has Room For Lincoln

Stocks in this article: GM

Ford wants to keep Lincoln in the public eye this year, starting with the brand's first Super Bowl ad. In early spring, Lincoln dealers will start offering date nights to prospective customers, letting them borrow an MKZ and treating them to dinner.

Mulally and Jim Farley, a former top Lexus executive who now leads the Lincoln brand, sat down with The Associated Press recently to talk about Lincoln. Below are excerpts, edited for length:

AP: Lincoln dealers say they love the new vehicles but need them to get to the showrooms more quickly. Do you need to move faster to turn Lincoln around?

Mulally: We are going as fast as we can. I know that sounds maybe too easy, but this is a company that turned the corner and now is growing. We're going up in production, all those new launches and all that product development. And it's a real balance to deliver those vehicles. I think we think we'd like to go faster, but the most important thing is to deliver on this brand promise that we've made.

Farley: I think building a world class premium brand, especially a brand like Lincoln where our vision is to serve all the customers, you have to be very thoughtful about the kind of products, when they come out and how you build in the capability at the dealership level. And that takes time. I remember how anxious everyone was for the (Ford) Fiesta to launch, and we said, "We need a little time to get ready for this launch." Our dealers weren't used to dealing with Honda trade-ins. We didn't know how to sell a small car. We were selling Expeditions and Explorers. They didn't know how to quote used-car prices for a Civic or a Fit. If you want to be truly a luxury brand that competes and differentiates in the U.S. market, with the kind of competition out there and the kind of expectations, customers have, to get the plumbing and the wiring and the software and the people side of the dealership takes time. It takes time for us to consolidate the dealer network. Our team, and Alan, always really made sure that when we did things that we had real proof. The Lincoln dealers, for many decades, were told many things. And this is a team that believes deeply that when we say something, we're going to do it.

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