What Drives Her: Elaine Bannon, Engineering Lincoln Luxury

A Girls Guide To Cars | What Drives Her: Elaine Bannon, Engineering Lincoln Luxury - Elaine Bannon 2 December 2014 E1426552552147

A Girls Guide To Cars | What Drives Her: Elaine Bannon, Engineering Lincoln Luxury - Dzji8K4C Elaine Bannon 2 December 2014Elaine Bannon, Chief Engineer, Lincoln Navigator AND Lincoln MKX.

According to Elaine Bannon, “luxury by nature is not logical but emotional.” The woman behind the new Lincoln MKX has a deep understanding of the appeal of luxury, making sure that Lincoln car buyers are offered the highest personal experience, from the dealership to their driving experience.

Elaine notes that while some buyers of luxury goods are aspirational buyers, who have to save to afford the product, and others are wealthy customers, looking for the next best thing, Lincoln vehicles to appeal to both customers.

She said all customers who appreciate luxury love the same things:” the highest level of quality; the uniqueness of the item; and with that uniqueness, how does it emotionally address “ME.”

What Drives HerElaine worked on the relaunch of the Lincoln Navigator, and drives a 2015MY Navigator. But even before coming to the Ford family, a company she’s worked for since she was in college, she drove a 1979 Ford Mustang.

Elaine’s passion for engineering is inborn; her and uncle are engineers and heavily influenced her at a young age to study engineering. She has two degrees from the University of Michigan; a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and an MBA.  Combined with an interest in cars and how things worked and functioned, a career in cars seems preordained.

From Ford to Lincoln; staying in the family, with an upgrade

Ford was Elaine’s first employer; then she moved over to the luxury side with Lincoln. When asked if her approach to designing a car changed when she moved, she said, “Absolutely. Luxury is a completely other realm of expectation from specific customers and from those charged to deliver them.”

What Drives Her

The Lincoln MKX at its Detroit Auto Show introduction. Credit: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

She added, “The deep attention to detail in executing the vehicle as a harmonious system greatly lends itself to the experiences a luxury customer expects.  As an example, when driving the vehicle, our customers experience the luxury of a quiet cabin.  When she is collecting her thoughts for the day, prepping for an upcoming meeting or unwinding after a long day….  She wants quiet or the environment to be quiet as she talks to someone or listens to her favorite music.  This is only achieved through a passion for the product and working every detail to deliver quietness and other attributes our luxury client expects.”

Elaine said the MKX is designed to attract a wide range of customers.. by offering more technology, engine choices and personalization options.” Lincoln feels that it’s Navigator customers are most loyal; someone who buys one comes back for another.

What Drives Her

The 2015 Lincoln Navigator

The specific challenges of working with the re-launch of a luxury brand

Elaine said, “I have always had an affinity for luxury goods and experiences including clothes, travel, and (of course) vehicles”. Likewise Lincoln has a rich heritage in the luxury segment. She said “The Ford Motor Company has made a strategic decision to focus solely on Lincoln as the company’s only luxury brand now…which is different from say, 10 years ago when we had multiple brands in luxury. There is focus now and the proof is the strides we’ve made over the last four years – sales, new products gaining traction, our moves in China, a new president of the brand, dealership mentality changing. We have a long way to go but we have a solid plan in place to get there.”

Lincoln styling and luxury are the draw for most people checking out the all-new Lincoln MKX, but Elaine says her favorite features is the new 2.7-liter EcoBoost; “that’s where the ‘engineer’  in me has to come through. She said the engine adds a new level of performance to the vehicle. But it’s really the total package that Lincoln is addressing; she says the company’s focus is on “delivering a total personalized luxury experience for our client: performance, quiet ride, power and technologies that make life easier, all in an environment wrapped in rich materials.’

The Lincoln team, from engineering to marketing

Elaine said Lincoln emphasizes the team concept, and “like any team, everyone has a role to play; Marketing will hone in on the external elements through customer engagement and advertising. As engineers, our job is to take data about those customers’ needs – and sometimes those things they don’t know they “need” yet – and make them reality on the vehicle. You are all on the team proceeding to the goal of pleasing a distinct customer.”

Is meeting Matthew McConaughey in the cards?

Matthew McConaughey stars in a new series of ads for Lincoln. Elaine says she works closely with designers, ensuring the engineering of the vehicle is robust, but “I would still like to engineer a meeting with Matthew of course!  Seriously, he’s done a great deal in a short time as to awareness of Lincoln in a unique and collaborative way.  He’s part of that “team concept.”Only team member we have with an Oscar, too!

Judy Antell, who is TravelingMom.com's Free in 50 States editor, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and... More about Judy Antell