Last week, news about Ford Motor Co.’s quiet new appointment for its Lincoln brand emerged. As part of the luxury brand’s $1 billion revamp, Ford has replaced Max Wolff as chief designer. British designer David Woodhouse is now Lincoln’s design head.
According to Ford spokesman Stephane Cesareo, Wolff will still be working at Lincoln, this time as the chief of exterior design. The Australian designer was hired from General Motors’ Cadillac unit four years ago. His successor Woodhouse also designed for GM and had been working with Ford since 1999.
The appointment was actually made a few months back. As per Woodhouse’s LinkedIn profile, the change was made in December. Cesareo said that there is a good reason why Ford did not make the announcement—the company no longer gives a press release for job promotions below the level of vice president.
However, when Wolff was hired back in December 2010, Ford did make an announcement. The automaker stated that Wolff’s hiring was bringing “fresh perspective that will challenge us internally and take Lincoln to new levels of prestige.”
Cesareo noted that the shuffle was made because additional design resources were necessary for the fast redesign of Lincoln’s line. Lincoln spokesman Sam Locricchio confirmed this, saying that “more bodies and more resources dedicated solely to Lincoln is always the goal to get the brand where it needs to be.”
Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally is attempting to reinvigorate the Lincoln brand in order to take advantage of the profitable luxury market. Ford wants Lincoln to be a worthy rival to the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but it will need a lot of work to be considered as competition. Lincoln’s U.S. annual sales in 2013 plummeted 65 percent since 1990, when the brand sold 231,660 units.
Other sources suggest that there is more to the shakeup than Lincoln’s need for new design resources. According to John Wolkonowicz, a former Ford product planner, Wolff may have been replaced due to his attempts to deviate from the “One Ford” strategy, which upholds the sharing of platforms and parts between Ford and Lincoln models. Wolkonowicz says that the said strategy is crucial to Ford because it was that which saved the company. The “One Ford” plan lets the automaker lower costs and boost profits by increasing the commonality of their vehicles.
Upon his arrival at Ford, Wolff worked on the design of the MKZ sedan, which sported a broad chrome grille that resembles the outstretched wings of an eagle. The sedan has been selling well, helping the brand enjoy a 36 percent increase in U.S. sales this year.
Woodhouse worked as an assistant chief designer at GM in 1998 and 1999. From 2004 to 2009, he oversaw Ford’s advanced design studio in California. He was also the former director of Lincoln strategy; he held the post from July to December 2013.
Woodhouse also assumed the chief designer post for Ford’s Premier Automotive Group. He was the head designer for Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. All these luxury brands were sold after Mullaly arrived at the automaker in 2006.
Cars designed with Woodhouse at the helm include the Land Rover Freelander, the 2002 Lincoln Continental concept and the 2005 Ford Shelby GR-1.
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