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Previews and predictions for the auto industry in 2013 Add to ...

Ford’s biggest challenge in 2013, though, isn’t Europe. No, Ford needs to make Lincoln relevant again and that won’t be easy. I just had a long sit-down with Ford’s group vice-president for global marketing, Jim Farley, who is also heading up the Lincoln brand renaissance.

“This is the sort of thing I came to Ford to do,” said the former Toyota executive who was personally recruited to Ford by CEO Alan Mulally.

Farley talked with passion and great earnestness to me about the new models coming to Lincoln, starting with the new MKZ that goes on sale in 2013. Lincoln is also upgrading everything imaginable about the so-called “customer experience” for Lincoln buyers. Within three years, Lincoln will have been completely reinvented from top to bottom, said Farley. The company has put in place the money and resources to do so.

I want to believe Farley because he is a smart, charming and passionate “car guy.” So he gets 12 months. If by this time next year, the new Lincoln Motor Co. hasn’t made big strides in sales and brand perception with consumers, then I predict some very tough words from me. Twelve months. Lincoln gets 12 months to prove that the promises are more than just rhetoric. I wish Farley and his crew good luck.

Meanwhile, Ford will fix a few other things. First among them, Ford needs to make its MyFord/MyLincoln Touch infotainment system bullet-proof and easy for consumers to use. I predict Ford will. Because if Ford doesn’t, if Ford gets slammed again in 2013’s various quality studies, the miracle turnaround will be forgotten and everyone will say Ford is back to its old ways.

CHRYSLER

Then we have Chrysler. I am impressed by the spunky attitude I encounter every time I meet with a Chrysler official, visit the company’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., and even when I drive the new products.

“Guess which Detroit car company has repaid all its government money,” says Chrysler Canada CEO Reid Bigland, who also runs sales in the U.S., oversees the Dodge Brand as CEO there and sits on the Fiat/Chrysler management board. Yes, that’s at least four big jobs for Bigland.

The answer to that question is Chrysler. All the taxpayer money that went into saving Chrysler has been repaid. All of it. Every penny. Because Chrysler is so focused as a company, so driven by its “underdog” status and so necessary to the survival of its parent company, Italy’s Fiat, I predict very good things for Chrysler in 2013.

The reinvented Ram pickup will continue as a sales winner and profit spinner – and will be bolstered by the arrival of heavy duty Rams, the 2500 and 3500. Automotive News also tells us we’re going to see a new Hornet subcompact and that the Dodge Journey, Canada’s best-selling crossover, will be redesigned. The Chrysler 200 will also get a remake, notes the publication.

We’re also told a new Grand Wagoneer is coming, the Grand Cherokee will be re-engineered and the Liberty SUV will get redesigned. Look for large and small commercial vans to come from Chrysler, too – based on Fiat models and built in Mexico.

It all adds up to this: 2013 will be a monster year for Chrysler. Yes, I know that the Dart compact launched in 2012 has had a so-so reception overall, but be patient. Chrysler hasn’t had a competitive compact car for decades; it takes time for consumers to catch on. But I think overall that Chrysler is onto something and in 2013 I expect big sales increases, at least a few awards and lots of profits.

EUROPEAN AUTO MAKERS

Finally, the Europeans. In 2013, Audi Canada will come close to catching BMW and Mercedes-Benz brand vehicles in terms of sales. Close, but no cigar, as they say. Audi is relentless, though, and I expect double-digit sales gains in Canada once again.

As for BMW and Mercedes, for Canadians what stands out most is the arrival of the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class. At a starting price less than $30,000, this small, five-door wagon will be a massive hit with Canadians. Massive. It will be the standout product in Canada from either of these two German juggernauts.

See you this time next year to review my soothsaying.

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