A few days ago Ford reported that 35 percent of the Lincoln dealers are superfluous and should be sent out to pasture – to avoid the word “cull.” The metro areas appear to have a particular overabundance of Lincoln dealers. According to Mark Fields, President of Ford Americas, this is where “the efficiencies” need to come from. The news didn’t go down too well. The Freep quoted one dealer. “It was a somber day,” said Larry Taylor, Lincoln-Mercury dealer near Dayton, Ohio, “I’m secure. But there are some guys who have had a store for 50, 60 years who are going to have to give that up.” Mark Fields, President of Ford Americas is adamant: “We are fully committed to transforming Lincoln into a world-class luxury brand.” Now Ford is upping the ante against uppity Lincoln dealers.
Automotive News (sub) reports that Ford has issued an ultimatum to Lincoln dealers: Invest money in your dealerships to meet new service and dealership standards or kiss your franchise goodbye. Ford staffers will be sent to dealerships to talk to and negotiate upgrades which dealers need to make. If the dealer does not make the required changes, then they will have to take whatever severance package Lincoln will offer them. As Mark Fields puts it, “Dealers will decide”. It is estimated by Ford that about 25 percent of all Lincoln dealerships meet the standards that they want. What makes this decision even tougher for Lincoln dealers is that they have to commit money to improving their dealerships, while the return on investment doesn’t look that great. In September, 2010, Lincoln sold 7,510 units in the whole of the United States. Now compare that to Mercedes-Benz who, in the same period, sold 20,666 units. Or BMW, who sold 18,228. Or Audi, who sold 8,151 units. Or Lexus, who sold 16,948 units. Or Cadillac, who sold 12,620 units. Even Acura sold more, at 10,720 units. So did Buick, they sold 12,875 units. And Infiniti, they sold 8,305 units. In short, Lincoln is one of the weakest luxury brands in the US market. It’s not that they don’t have too many dealers. They don’t have enough sales. And Ford is asking them to stump up more cash in order to make their dealerships meet new standards or risk getting cut. It’s not an attractive proposition.
How about something revolutionary: One Ford. Also in the dealer channel. People love multi-brand auto malls. No? Never mind.