Lincoln Experience Center Launched
Here's the test: If, in two years, Kumar Galhotra is still president of Lincoln Motor Company, then it's a good bet that the vision being cast by Ford's luxury brand more than simply earnest marketing and money spent to promote an image. So far, so good -- 2016 sales are strong for the brand led by the new MKX SUV, aided by the consistent popularity of the MKZ, and fueled by a ton of public anticipation for the forthcoming 2017 Lincoln Continental sedan. The wild and wise Lincoln Navigator concept from the 2016 New York auto show didn't hurt, either.
The Lincoln Experience Center
The latest expression of Galhotra's vision for Lincoln is the all-new Lincoln Experience Center in Newport Beach, California. Located in a premium spot at the exclusive Fashion Island shopping mall (yes, tours come from foreign countries to shop there), the Experience Center is designed as a low-pressure/no-pressure environment where potential customers can get to know Lincoln as a brand rather than shop for Lincoln as a car.
Lincoln Experience Center highlights include a cafe serving coffee, tea and designer water, as well as a lounge where you can just relax. If the Lincoln brand catches your curiosity while you sit and sip, naturally you can explore using interactive digital displays, an audio room designed with Harman Kardon's high-end Revel sound system components, or the old-fashioned way -- climbing into Lincoln models on the Experience Center floor. Events such as wine and cheese tastings, musical showcases, and art and jewelry evenings are regularly scheduled.
At each step, a Lincoln advisor is available at the Experience Center to answer questions and set up a test drive in vehicles that are housed on-site. The one thing they won't do is try to sell you a car -- though they can do a "warm" handoff to your local dealer if you're interested.
It's good to be president.
Never happier than when he's showing off the new Continental, Kumar Galhotra -- an engineer by training and a diplomat by nature -- is fully aware that Lincoln still has a long way to go in sharpening the focus of the brand's essence. That focus, he points out, needs to sharpen not just in the eyes of the customer, but also in the eyes of folks inside Lincoln.
"With 890 dealers, it's quite a challenge for each one of those sales people, service people, thousands of people who'll need to buy into and deliver the vision of the experience we want to deliver," he says. "A lot of the employees at the dealerships are not quite sure of what that experience ought to be. That's what we're doing with training, and designing processes like pickup and delivery, like Lincoln Miles [a rewards program based on unused miles at the end of a lease], and Black Label that actually make those experiences tangible. And we're doing it with places like the Experience Center."
The second Lincoln Experience Center is already in development. Galhotra insists that such environments, and the ideas behind them, are a natural part of being a premier car company.
"All of us are getting services all over these days that are just not that human anymore,” he explains. “Your car shouldn't be creating frustrations for you, and that happens a lot in our industry at every step of the way in your shopping process, and your buying process, and your ownership process. With all the other things going on in your life, the car should bring moments of joy."
Kumar Galhotra has been president of Lincoln for less than two years (he took over in September of 2014). In conversation, he speaks devotedly about the vehicles and philosophy he wants the brand to reflect. His actions over the next 2-3 years, and pieces like the Lincoln Experience Centers, will define Lincoln well into the next decade.