Luckily, I got my chance at Detroit to quiz a senior Ford boss about the future of its luxury brand, Lincoln. Jim Farley is Ford’s global sales and marketing boss and, I’m pleased to report, a keen Autocar reader.
Not surprisingly, he appeared not concerned about Ford’s sell-off of Jaguar Land Rover. "We just had to do it," he said. "You won’t believe how much time and energy it takes just to run a company like Ford, without the distraction of other brands."
But he did admit that Ford didn’t cope well with running a multi-brand operation. "For whatever reason, a company like Volkswagen can do it, but Ford couldn’t. We just got distracted," he said.
And he acknowledges that as a result, Ford is now locked out of the fast-growing global luxury market, without attempting to suggest that Lincoln can rectify that situation any time soon.
In fact, Lincoln is going through a "brand building exercise and not going to chase volume", he said.
The sales numbers back this up. Lincoln is only selling about 90,000 units in the US, with a further 10,000 or so in South Korea and the Middle East.
That’s many fewer than its nearest direct competitor, Cadillac, which sells about 150,000 units in the US and a further 45,000 in the rest of the world.
JLR, remember, is around the 300,000 mark.
Lincoln’s current focus is to get a new model range of seven cars into production, with the focus on rebodying Ford platforms, rather than rebadging them – a significant difference.
Outside the US, the thrust is to beef up sales in China, starting in 2014, and with this in mind Lincoln was hosting a group of Chinese journalists at Detroit.
In fact, China, rather than Europe or Asia, holds the secret to Lincoln’s development. If all goes to plan, China will be Lincoln’s biggest market by 2020.
In that time, Ford will have a chance to reflect that in the same timeframe, JLR may well be selling in excess of 600,000 cars around the globe. Food for thought, indeed.