Report: Lincoln ‘not true luxury’ yet, says Ford design chief

Filed under: Marketing/Advertising, Lincoln, Design/Style, Luxury

2013 Lincoln MKZ front three-quarters

Lincoln is “not true luxury,” according to Ford’s design boss, J Mays. His statements come from a story in The Detroit News that saw candid language on the issues facing Ford’s troubled premium brand. Notably, there’s a need for a strong character, with Mays saying, “Every brand needs to have a DNA and a unique selling point and things in the vehicle that make you think, ‘That’s that particular brand.'”

With a range of rebadged Fords, it’s not hard to see why that DNA is missing. Mays hinted that a full recovery for Lincoln will be a ten-year process, that’s been kicked off with the MKZ sedan. While that car is still largely a Ford Fusion under its extremely pretty wrapper, it’s the first Lincoln in some time to inject its own unique take both through the exterior styling and through interior features, such as the vertical, pushbutton gear selection.

Some analysts weren’t so certain about Mays’ 10-year estimate. Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics thinks it’ll be more like 30 years before Lincoln can show a true return to form. The issue, as Hall explains it, is that, “luxury has a degree of exclusivity,” that Lincoln just doesn’t have. Michelle Krebs from Edmunds adds, “it’s definitely a wanna-be luxury brand,” comparing the troubled American brand with Infiniti and Acura, two other brands that have struggled to find their place in the luxury market.

From the language Mays is using, though, it seems that Ford is still rather committed to Lincoln. The MKZ, while plagued by production issues, has been a steady seller, although not enough to prevent an overall drop in 2013 sales for the brand. The eventual arrival of the Ford Escape-based MKC could be a boon to the brand, provided its as unique as the MKZ. Lincoln is also preparing to go on sale in China, a market that has traditionally loved brands unloved by Americans (see Buick), so while Ford’s luxury brand might be down, it’s probably nowhere close to out.

Lincoln ‘not true luxury’ yet, says Ford design chief originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 28 Aug 2013 18:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Mercedes-Benz outfits a luxury Eurocopter

Filed under: Etc., Mercedes-Benz, Design/Style, Luxury

Eurocopter EC145 by Mercedes-Benz

Eurocopter EC145 by Mercedes-Benz Style – Click above for high-res image gallery

To many people around the world, Mercedes-Benz and its silver star of glory represents the epitome of luxury and style. Want to be chauffeured around in a limousine? An S-Class or a Maybach is what the doctor ordered. Need a bit more space? A luxed-out Sprinter van is at your service. But if you’re looking to soar above the skyline and take that Benz luxury with you, the German automaker’s design studio has partnered with Eurocopter for this unique whirly-bird.

Unveiled at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibit in Geneva, this EC145 – a favorite for luxury travel as it is for medevac teams and a myriad other applications – has had its cabin outfitted by the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio on Italy’s Lake Como. There, design chief Gorden Wagener oversaw the fitment of the chopper’s cabin with all the usual Benz touches, from ambient lighting to wood trim. The cabin has also been arranged in a flexible layout, with seats that can be moved around on rails to seat up to eight passengers or removed to offer extra space for the privileged few.

The project is the first initiative of Mercedes-Benz Style, the automaker’s new product-design division, who we expect will be rolling out a number of licensed designs over the course of the coming years. Follow the jump for the full press release, and check out the high-resolution images in our gallery.

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Mercedes-Benz outfits a luxury Eurocopter originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 18 May 2011 17:32:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Lexus boss Templin says brand to lose luxury sales crown over Japan quake

Filed under: Japan, Lexus, Luxury

mark templin lexus vp Lexus has been the king of luxury car sales in the U.S. for over a decade, but Toyota’s high-end brand will likely lose its crown in 2011, due at least in part to the March 11 earthquake in Japan.

Certainly, Lexus was already facing a great deal of pressure from rivals like BMW and Buick, but Automotive News reports that Toyota VP and Lexus Group Manager Mark Templin says dealers are down to a 30-day supply of most models, and that vehicle shortages will be felt as early as this week. The problem is that some key components from Japan come from plants that are still shut down as a result of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The Lexus CT 200h is reportedly close to sold out due to the issues.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Lexus ramped up the leasing business three years ago, and those customers will soon be bringing back their luxury rides in large numbers. That’s good news for dealers looking for products to sell, but it’s bad for customers who may not have the ability to purchase a new Lexus model.

The automaker is looking to ease this issue by offering six-month lease extensions. At the same time, Templin knows many customers will simply purchase their lease vehicle outright, and he’s asking dealers not to gouge those customers. The fear is that a shortage of models will result in more demand than supply, which could then jack up the price of Lexus models to unreasonable levels.

Since the automaker appears to be out of the running for the 2011 luxury sales crown, it seems natural that Lexus will come back with a vengeance in 2012. But Templin says the automaker may never again grab the sales crown, since luxury car makers are aiming down-market to improve corporate fuel economy averages. Templin opines that it won’t be long before a luxury car maker hits 500,000 sales in a year.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req.]

Lexus boss Templin says brand to lose luxury sales crown over Japan quake originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 26 Apr 2011 16:20:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Buick sales beating up on Lexus, may be this year’s most popular luxury brand

Filed under: Car Buying, Buick, Earnings/Financials, Luxury

Buick emblem badge

There are a number of simple, reliable truths in the world. The Earth is round. A compass points north. Nobody but the Chinese buy Buicks and Lexus is the best-selling luxury brand in the United States. Well, hold on to your horses. Lowly old Buick, long seen as the doorstop of the luxury segment, has outsold Lexus two months straight and shows no signs of slowing down.

Our friends at Kicking Tires ground through the sales figures and found that Buick also sold more luxury cars in February than Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Acura. In fact, the only luxury brand that sold more cars in the States in February was BMW, and even then only by 800 units.

What makes Buick’s meteoric rise to the top of its segment even more impressive is the fact that it has done so with just four nameplates: Enclave, LaCrosse, Lucerne and Regal. By way of comparison, Lexus offers nine models in the States.

And lest you think that buyers are choosing Buicks solely because of a value proposition, Kicking Tires notes that average Buick transaction prices have increased by $11,113 since 2003, according to Buick spokesman Nick Richards. Sounds like Buick deserves some real kudos, no?

We suggest you scan over the whole article from Kicking Tires, it’s a very interesting read.

[Source: Kicking Tires]

Buick sales beating up on Lexus, may be this year’s most popular luxury brand originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 07 Mar 2011 11:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Audi A8 L Security blends serious protection with luxury and style

Filed under: Sedan, Safety, Audi, Luxury

Audi A8 L Security

Audi A8 L Security – Click above for high-res image gallery

Attention wealthy car shoppers looking for mobile security beyond an alarm and LoJack. Your new chariot of protection has arrived and it’s wearing Four Rings in the grille. Audi is preparing to launch a truly battle-ready premium sedan and it’s called the A8 L Security.

Produced in a heavily guarded section of a secure workshop (no cell phones allowed), the A8 L Security is an armor-plated luxury sedan certified by the German government for compliance with the VR 7 ballistic protection standard (2009). Basically, that means this A8 L is capable of taking numerous rifle bullets and small explosive hits such as hand grenades and anti-tank mines.

All of that protection adds weight, and the Audi A8 L Security employs measures to help counter -balance the added heft. Under the hood is a 6.3-liter W12 engine that produces 500 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and both work together to push the heavy four-door from zero-to-60 miles per hour in around seven seconds.

As you may recall, Audi showed off its last generation A8 L Security in 2007, and that car cost $685,000. No word yet on a sticker price for this latest version, but armoring ain’t cheap.

The full list of features on this rolling luxury tank is hugely impressive, and it’s available for you to read in the press-release posted after the jump.

Gallery: Audi A8 L Security

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[Source: Audi]

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Audi A8 L Security blends serious protection with luxury and style originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 16 Feb 2011 10:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Report: Hyundai considering more luxury models, separate luxury brand [w/poll]

Filed under: Marketing/Advertising, Hyundai, Luxury

Hyundai Equus badge

First the Genesis sedan, then the Equus. Clearly, Hyundai is pinning its ears back and charging upmarket like Ndamukong Suh rushing Aaron Rodgers. And, like the rookie Husker-bred defensive end, the Korean automaker is making a rather successful transition to the next level. What’s next? Quite possibly a sedan designed to compete directly with the benchmark entry-level luxury sedan, the BMW 3 Series. After that, Hyundai may craft a crossover to go up against the segment-defining Lexus RX CUV.

According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, Hyundai isn’t nearly done refining the image of its top-level nameplates. Hyundai USA head John Krafcik told the WSJ in an interview that the automaker is actively considering whether it should break its premium models apart from the rest of its lineup, much in the same way Honda does with Acura, Toyota does with Lexus and Nissan does with Infiniti.

While this isn’t exactly news, Krafcik’s level of candor is. Three options are apparently on the table. First, an entire separate dealer network could be created to sell these Genesis-branded machines, but this would be very costly. Second (and reportedly most likely), a subset of the automaker’s current set of dealers could add a section to their dealerships designed to cater specifically to upmarket clients – a showroom-within-a-showroom, if you like. They could even have their own dedicated employees. Lastly, Hyundai could stick with its current scheme of training at least one salesperson on the Genesis line, leaving the dealerships alone.

Whichever way Hyundai chooses to move, don’t expect any hasty decisions. Krafcik says the company will keep a close eye on the success of its Equus sedan in the States before making any judgments on its dealer network. In the meantime, expect Hyundai to unveil a new global branding strategy at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show along with a slogan to replace the current “Drive Your Way” message.

One thing is clear: this decision will shape the way forward for Hyundai’s continued performance in the United States. We’re keenly interested in your take on the matter, and we know the automaker’s execs are listening, too. What strategy should Hyundai adopt in its bid to move further upmarket? Make yourself heard in our informal poll below, as well as in Comments.

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Gallery: 2011 Hyundai Equus: First Drive

Photos copyright (C)2010 Damon Lavrinc / AOL

[Source: The Wall Street Journal, Automotive News – sub. req.]

Report: Hyundai considering more luxury models, separate luxury brand [w/poll] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 08 Dec 2010 12:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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LA 2010: 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid brings electric power to the luxury sport segment

Filed under: LA Auto Show, Hybrid, Sedan, Infiniti

2012 Infiniti M Hybrid

2012 Infiniti M Hybrid – Click above for high-res image gallery

Making its public debut here at the LA Auto Show is the first production hybrid sedan from Infiniti, the M35h. Set to hit dealerships in the spring of 2011, the M Hybrid uses a parallel hybrid system combined with a seven-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive.

When paired with a 50-kilowatt electric motor, the M35h’s 3.5-liter V6 is estimated to produce a stout 360 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. What’s more, the electric motor produces an additional 199 lb-ft of twist off the line for acceleration, and we’re told that the sedan can travel up to 62 miles per hour on electric power alone.

Official fuel economy figures are not available as of this writing, but Infiniti expects the M Hybrid to achieve 25 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway (27 combined). Sure, that might sound impressive, but for the sake of comparison, we’d like to direct your attention to the new 5.0-liter direct-injected V8 from Hyundai, which is estimated to net 26 mpg highway with a whopping 429 hp on tap. Just sayin’.

The M Hybrid does come standard with a laundry list of technological features, such as Active Noise Control and an audible pedestrian warning system for times when the car is silently cruising in electric mode. On top of that, the usual host of functions like navigation, Bluetooth and satellite radio are all on hand – this is a top-tier Infiniti, after all.

Follow the jump for the full details in the automaker’s press release, and click through our galleries of live and stock shots to see the new M Hybrid from all angles.

Gallery: LA 2010: Infiniti M Hybrid

2012 Infiniti M Hybrid2012 Infiniti M Hybrid2012 Infiniti M Hybrid2012 Infiniti M Hybrid2012 Infiniti M Hybrid

Gallery: 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid

2012 Infiniti M Hybrid2012 Infiniti M Hybrid2012 Infiniti M Hybrid2012 Infiniti M Hybrid2012 Infiniti M Hybrid

Live photos copyright (C)2010 Drew Phillips / AOL

[Source: Infiniti]

Continue reading LA 2010: 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid brings electric power to the luxury sport segment

LA 2010: 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid brings electric power to the luxury sport segment originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 18 Nov 2010 15:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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LA 2010: 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist brings efficiency to the full-size luxury sedan

Filed under: LA Auto Show, Hybrid, Sedan, Buick, GM, Luxury

2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist

2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist – Click above for high-res image gallery

Full-size luxury sedans are typically guilty pleasures since they can be either coddling, comfort machines or all-out speed freaks. One thing they haven’t been is fuel efficient… until now. Making its debut at the 2010 LA Auto Show is the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist.

Power for the LaCrosse eAssist is provided by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with direct-injection. It gains an efficiency boost through the addition of a 115V lithium-ion battery pack, which allows the fuel system to take a nap during certain conditions. These two power systems working together, along with the six-speed automatic transmission, allow the Buick LaCrosse eAssist to achieve 25 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway – a 25% percent improvement compared to the 2.4-liter flying solo. Consider this the reinvention of GM’s long lost mild hybrid system.

Pricing for the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist is expected to start around $30,000. What’s more, the hybrid system will be fitted standard to all LaCrosse models equipped with the 2.4-liter Ecotec engine. More green luxury information is sprouting just after the jump.

Gallery: LA 2010: 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist

2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist

Photos copyright (C)2010 Drew Philips / AOL

[Source: General Motors]

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LA 2010: 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist brings efficiency to the full-size luxury sedan originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 17 Nov 2010 21:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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LA 2010: Cadillac unwraps Urban Luxury Concept

Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept

Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept – Click above for high-res image gallery

One could be excused for thinking that the definition of urban luxury might be the Cadillac Escalade, but apparently the hive mind at General Motors’ most luxurious division have other thoughts on the subject. In fact, it seems Cadillac is thinking the exact opposite. To wit, take a gander at the Urban Luxury Concept that’s being debuted at the 2010 LA Auto Show.

As would seem appropriate for a car intended for urban confines, this Caddy concept features rather small exterior dimensions, but the automaker claims that it’s large inside with seating for four occupants. Wheelbase comes in at a hair over 97 inches and overall length measures 151 inches. Width is listed at 68.1 inches and height at just under 57 inches.

Ingress and egress takes place through a pair of scissor doors that extend outward and rotate forward when opened – supposedly a boon for tight urban parking spaces. The rest of the exterior carries the brand’s Art and Science motif to new levels and could sort of be described as a Smart Fortwo or Aston Martin Cygnet drawn with nothing but a straight edge. We wouldn’t call it pretty, but striking would certainly be an apt descriptor.

Interior space is recovered by the lack of the expected gauges and control surfaces. Instead, we have projectors and a slew of capacitive touch screens that glow Tanzanite blueish-purple. There’s a hide-away right-hand touch pad and the back of the folding passenger seat converts into an Orbit Baby SmartHub.

Power comes from a 1.0-liter turbocharged three cylinder engine (perhaps the unit that was originally planned for the Chevy Volt?) that makes up part of a hybrid drivetrain. GM claims the system would provide a completely theoretical 56 miles per gallon in the city and 65 mpg on the highway.

To get the full story of the Urban Luxury Concept, you really need to take a look at our high-res image gallery below, and you’ll also find the complete press release after the break.

Gallery: LA 2010: Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept

LA 2010: Cadillac Urban Luxury ConceptLA 2010: Cadillac Urban Luxury ConceptLA 2010: Cadillac Urban Luxury ConceptLA 2010: Cadillac Urban Luxury ConceptLA 2010: Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept

[Source: Cadillac]

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LA 2010: Cadillac unwraps Urban Luxury Concept originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 17 Nov 2010 00:05:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Report: Mercedes overtakes Lexus as leading luxury automaker in U.S.

Filed under: Car Buying, Mercedes-Benz, Earnings/Financials, Luxury

Mercedes-Benz Emblem

Make way for the new king. Mercedes-Benz has made up serious ground in the American luxury market, beating out both BMW and long-reigning Lexus in sales last month. The Silver Arrow saw deliveries climb by 17 percent in the US, up to 19,862 units in September. What’s more, Ernst Lieb, the company’s chief executive officer, said that he expects the Mercedes-Benz market share to continue to grow throughout the remainder of 2010.

That news comes as BMW announced its sales had grown by 21 percent compared to this time last year. Lexus, meanwhile isn’t fairing so well. The Japanese luxury marque saw its sales fall off by a hefty six percent to 16,948 units, even in light of booming ES sales. The company delivered 21 percent more of its front-wheel-drive sedan in September, but those gains were demolished by the fact that sales of the company’s IS line dropped off by 27 percent.

It would seem that buyers are still somewhat skittish of Lexus products after a torrent of recalls earlier this year. Even so, Brian Smith, the U.S. vice-president of Lexus sales, says that he doesn’t believe his company will lose its position as the number one luxury automaker in the States when all of 2010 is counted.

[Source: Bloomberg]

Report: Mercedes overtakes Lexus as leading luxury automaker in U.S. originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 04 Oct 2010 13:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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