PARIS (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N) could take its Lincoln brand to international markets within five years once it has re-established the long-neglected luxury label in the United States, Chief Executive Alan Mulally said.
"Our primary focus is going to be the United States as you well know, but I have been looking at and driving the new Lincoln lineup and they are fantastic," Mulally told reporters on the sidelines of the Paris Auto Show on Thursday.
"I can imagine that after we have re-established the luxury brand Lincoln in the United States that there is going to be a lot of customer demand to move those vehicles around the world."
Ford has sold off the Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo brands over the past few years to focus on its mass market Ford brand. Ford also is cutting its Mercury brand this year to concentrate on rebuilding Lincoln.
"Lincoln is still a really good brand," Mulally said. "When we bought the other brands we just didn't invest much in Lincoln. It is still considered to be really a luxury brand."
The automaker plans to introduce seven new Lincoln vehicles over the next five years as part of the rebuilding process for the brand, which was neglected after a series of luxury vehicle marque acquisitions from the 1980s until a decade ago.
Ford has been unwinding those investments to cut losses and build cash for its restructuring, most recently completing the sale of Swedish brand Volvo to China's Geely in August.
"I think it will be over this next four to five years, but based on the strength of the product," Mulally said of the U.S. rebuilding of Lincoln.
The Asia-Pacific region represents a "tremendous opportunity" for the Ford and Lincoln brands, Mulally said. Ford would consider adding it to all regions, he said.
Mulally said Ford was "cautiously optimistic" that the economic recovery will continue, calling the recent slowing around the world "typical" of a recovery following a recession.
"This is a slower recovery than we have had from past recessions, but is also the worst recession we have ever had and we are fixing some fundamental issues," he said.
Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Michael Shields