May 10-- NEW YORK-For a time, being Lincoln's Motor Company's design director was a bit like being the drummer in Spinal Tap. Yet David Woodhouse has beaten the odds. Having spent time 19 years ago at Ford's Premiere Auto Group, its onetime collection of luxury auto brands, Woodhouse took the reigns of Ford's faded luxury brand five years ago after being name strategic design director. His steady leadership follows a rotating roster of design chiefs. He's nurtured its current look, which has resurrected its profile in the market.
His success has led Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett to name Woodhouse director of global strategic design in addition to his duties at Lincoln.
Unlike many designers, Woodhouse has clear idea of what Lincoln was and how to channel that into compelling modern automotive design with a clear heritage.
"It was neglected for a period of time, and about five years ago there was this big momentum to reinvent it," he said. "I think it's about Lincoln finding its true center again, and I think that's something we've fought in the past. But with Lincoln, historically, the greatest products always had a certain degree of restraint compared to our competitors, and you have to hit the balance of panache and restraint just right. And when you hit that just right, you're onto something magic."
Woodhouse was knows the brand didn't have the continuous design identity that rival Cadillac enjoyed over the decades.
"We'd reach points of consistency and then we'd change again. There are always lessons with that good and bad. This resurgence has really been great, with a new product every year and a design vision that gels with the brand essence."
What Woodhouse is aiming to achieve is revive Lincoln using the most iconic elements of the past while ignoring the misfires. "I've worked for a lot of other manufacturers, but I've always felt proud with Lincoln that there's this incredible design heritage of four eras with four icons; there's no other manufacturer who can brag about that: the '30s Zephyr, the '40s Continental, the '50s Mark II, and the '61. These cars won industrial design awards. Frank Lloyd Wright proclaimed the Continental the most beautiful car in the world."
"So this is an incredible legacy, and I think you have to come back to this and say, 'I want it to be the most beautiful car in the world again.' "
ABOUT THE WRITER
Larry Printz is an automotive journalist based in South Florida. Readers may send him email at TheDrivingPrintz@gmail.com.
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