Ford executive admits Lincoln is not yet a true luxury brand image

J Mays, Ford’s design chief acknowledged the automaker’s struggling Lincoln brand is “not true luxury, ” and faces a tough road back to premium identity that will take years.

The executive pointed out that Ford Motor Company has just set its focus on rebuilding Lincoln and a successful reinvention might take more than a decade.

“No, we’re not true luxury,” Mays said Tuesday following an event at the automaker’s Dearborn campus. “We’re in an investment stage with Lincoln. We’ve probably got a 10-year investment to make.”

“Most luxury brands today aren’t luxury brands,” said Jim Hall, analyst at 2953 Analytics LLP. “They’ve become luxury-branded products. Many are thinking of luxury as a series of checklists, but the traditional definition of luxury has a degree of exclusivity.”

Now that automakers offer luxurious features such as leather seats in most mass-market models, Hall said the branding of the current crop of luxury vehicles is more comparable to selling smartphones than to the high-end cars of the past. He also believes Lincoln will need at least three decades to return to its glory days of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

By many analyst accounts, Lincoln’s reinvention — which started with the launch of the new MKZ sedan this year and will include three new vehicles in coming years — has been hampered primarily by delays in manufacturing and product development.