FoMoCo CEO Alan Mulally Links Lincoln to Ford Dealers

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
fomoco ceo alan mulally links lincoln to ford dealers

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: if you want proof that Ford’s water-walking CEO doesn’t “get” automotive branding, look at Lincoln. The Blue Oval Boyz’ upmarket marque is in total disarray. Lincoln lacks anything approaching an effective brand proposition; it’s burning through tag lines almost as quickly and ineffectively as the industry standard for pitiful performance (Buick). Does it even matter? Lincoln’s line of lackluster products simply aren’t good enough to make it in The Bigs. And then there’s the Medusa-class disaster known as the MKT: a poorly-built, misbegotten machine constructed on Big Al’s watch. Automotive News [sub] deployed no less than three writers to talk to Mulally about languid old Lincoln, AND they spotted him the lazy journalist’s and persnickety PR person’s best friend: the Q&A format. Even so, the result is an extraordinary non-outburst from an executive who believes that combining Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers is a good thing. Check out this exchange:

AN: But is there enough for the stand-alone Lincoln Mercury dealers?

Mulally: I think in the future you will see more and more dualing of the dealerships.

AN: Will we eventually see the stand-alone Lincoln Mercury store go away?

Mulally: I think we’ll see more Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealerships.

AN: Any tips for how the remaining stand-alones can stay in business and make a profit?

Mulally: I think we’ll just see more Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealerships.

AN But does that make sense in the metro areas?

Mulally: I think we’ll see more Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealerships.

Stonewall much? Anyway, there’s lots more mishegoss where that came from. Specifically, a stunning example of the law of unintended anecdote

I’ll share a recent experience: I was driving a Lincoln MKS and visiting a stand-alone Ford store, and I was sitting in the car in front of the showroom for a few minutes. There was a salesman outside on the sidewalk right in front of this Lincoln MKS. and he starts talking it up to a customer, but then the punch line was: “Well, this is pretty much the same as the Taurus, the Taurus actually looks even better. I have the Taurus around the side, and it costs $10,000 less. Come look at the Taurus.”

That wasn’t a Ford-Lincoln-Mercury store, but that salesman saw that Lincoln and he jumped right on it to use it as a sales tool.

To their credit, at least one of the AN writers saw the story for what it was: a convincing argument against combining Ford and Lincoln dealerships.

AN: . . . if the sales guy thinks it’s easier to sell him the Ford, you’re going to sell fewer Lincolns, won’t you?

Mulally: I know your one example. But we’ve got a lot of people that are buying Lincolns, and they love Lincolns. The people that have dualed stores know they want to have an experience that fits the vehicle that they’re selling, so they’ll do it to be successful. They’ll have two different experiences.

Even within the same store?

Yeah, if you go to the stores that are doing it well, they really have an enhanced experience. A lot of stores are doing it very well.

Sorry Ford fans, but how hard is it to understand what Lincoln needs to survive: class-leading products (relative to Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Lexus) and class-leading dealer care (relative to the same players). A Lincoln buyer rubbing shoulders with a Fiesta owner ain’t it. Nor is the MKT.

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2 of 30 comments
  • Vexner Vexner on Nov 10, 2009

    Did not Chrysler with the K-car platform try the same thing? At least the K-car variants equiped equally cost basically the same thing...but what a way to diminish any brand equity.

  • Bryce Kirby Bryce Kirby on Nov 10, 2009

    Could someone please tell me how many pieces of chrome it takes to make a Ford Flex look like a Lincoln MKT?

  • Tassos Subaru really knows how to take fugly to ever higher levels, and sell every one of the (of course very few) it makes. As if the number of sales negates the fugliness.Don't hold your breath. I bet this will NOT be the vehicle James Bond arrives at the Casino in Monte Carlo with in his next flick. (if any)
  • ToolGuy Government overreach. Park the Ford in your air-conditioned garage on a maintenance charger and this won't be a problem.Here's some (old) general background if you are interested.@ILO, there are 3 Fords, and Ford Pro™ is the one with the bright future 🙂
  • ToolGuy No harm no foul (no one died), business is business, yada yada. Why must everyone pick on dealers?-this post dedicated to Ruggles
  • Hydrocrust Parts
  • ToolGuy The vehicle development process which gave the world the Neon was so amazing (according to the automotive press) that it prompted Rick Wagoner to hire Bob Lutz.Didn't work 🙂