In the never-ending battle among luxury automotive brands for supremacy, Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln division is contemplating an unusual tactic that could fit neatly with the proliferation of mobility options in the sharing economy. Lincoln has been quietly testing “Lincoln Chauffeur” in Miami, a service that lets customers who buy or lease a new Lincoln hire drivers provided by the automaker at a cost of about $30 an hour. An initial $250 credit at purchase could be used for eight hours of the driver’s time. The test will be extended to San Diego, Ford said, and rolled out to other markets if successful. Ford revealed Lincoln Chauffeur in New York, during the debut of the company’s Lincoln Navigator luxury SUV, which goes into production later this year and is aimed to compete with General Motors Co.’s Cadillac Escalade, Nissan Motor Corp.’s Infiniti QX80 and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus LX570. The media are reporting on vehicles and automakers prior to the annual New York International Auto Show. Navigator is the fourth new Lincoln in the past four years, part of a product offensive meant to revive a brand laid low by the global financial crisis and the overwhelming prestige of vehicles built by top German automakers Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, BMW AG and Volkswagen AG’s Audi. Under Lincoln’s program, a driver vetted and trained by the company would serve as chauffeur for tasks such as picking up children or conveying passengers to the airport, allowing the car’s owner to relax or – as so often is the case – use digital devices to take care of chores or perform tasks for work. Andrew Frick, head of Lincoln sales and service, said “the pilot is going well so far. These drivers are trained to deliver a high level of service.” No doubt, Lincoln wishes to avert publicity uproars like those engulfing Uber Inc. due to drivers that have misbehaved or antagonized clients. Ford’s idea sounds like a smart one. It’s easy to imagine that a significant number of luxury-car buyers value their time as much or more than the image of the car they drive. Sure, driving a Lincoln doesn’t send as powerful a message of wealth and sophistication as, say, Mercedes – but Ford and Lincoln banking on the premise that “quiet (read: less ostentatious) luxury” will play well with some customers – especially paired with a perk like a reliable driver who works at an affordable price.

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