In honor of the 4th of July, our Accessory Saturday focuses on a company that’s more American than apple pie, tailgating, and football (the one where you carry the ball in your hand most of the game, not soccer). The Lincoln Motor Company has been a Ford luxury vehicle subsidiary since its addition in 1922, and continues to surpass the markets needs with each release.
To keep in theme of fours, Lincoln craftsmanship supervisor, Stacy Swank, answers our top four questions on luxury manufacturing and shares four points on what she looks for in a luxury vehicle.
Is there anything that a luxury vehicle could forgo to still be considered luxurious?
I think by their very nature, luxury vehicles are aspirational. The luxury market expects the highest levels of engineering, design, materials, craftsmanship and personal service. Of course, there are segments within the luxury automotive market. But we see excellence in execution and across all segments. It’s not just about expensive materials and features; if the thought and engineering isn’t put into the design, then I don’t think it achieves true luxury standards.
Lincoln has reinvented itself a lot over the last years both inside and out, what do you think are the biggest changes?
This is a tough question – as I see so many changes in the four years I’ve been working on Lincoln craftsmanship. I think the biggest change I see is a better understanding within the entire organization of what it takes to achieve a luxury level of craftsmanship. The organization realizes that one group or organization can’t achieve our goals by itself. It takes everyone’s commitment: from our upper management to the design engineers. I’ve really seen the Lincoln program teams embrace and support craftsmanship by providing the enablers needed. The engineering teams are putting focus on hidden areas and surfaces that might have been ignored before. And I see more collaboration across organizations to help solve some of the difficult problems we come across. We’re shifting our focus, and working to get team-wide alignment early on.
What are the minutest details that only keen eyes would pick up?
We’re working in .1mm differences in margins and flushness, and so our craftsmanship engineers are tuned in to read minor variations. Probably the details that are the hardest to pick up and identify are some of the surface imperfections and variations we’re looking for. Ensuring parts next to each other match in the most subtle ways. Looking for any minor wrinkle or flaw in a sheet metal surface. While a typical customer may not be able to identify the specific concern, I do think that the outcome is noticed. All imperfections, even minor, detract from the overall feel of a vehicle. When you enter a Lincoln vehicle, we want the perception of the vehicle to be that everything is put together just right for you.
Are there things about craftsmanship that no one ever asks that are actually an integral part of its makeup?
Before I started working in craftsmanship, I didn’t realize how much is dependent on the architecture and structure of the vehicle. It takes more than just good design of the parts you can see and touch – everything behind those visible parts also must support our excellent craftsmanship. To achieve great craftsmanship truly takes total vehicle coordination and teamwork. When each part is being designed and engineered, we must consider how it will affect the craftsmanship of the rest of the car. For instance, while a customer will never see the climate-control ducts that carry air throughout the vehicle, their design will affect the appearance of the carpet and trim that covers them. That’s one of the things I love about working in craftsmanship – I have an overall view of the vehicle and how things fit together that many people don’t get to see.
- The fit of the instrument panel components and how the precision of how they come together. This, of course, is where the customer interacts frequently and is a focal point in the interior.
- The materials – are they real metal and wood? Are the parts I touch soft and have a smooth feel? If vinyl is used, is it a high-quality vinyl?
- I look for robustness and smoothness in the center console. I open the armrest to see how the mechanisms feel.
- Flushness of the decklid or liftgate is important, as well as how it looks and fits to the fender.