Lincoln Dealers Have Questions… And Not About Product

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Ford Motor Company has benefited immensely from its investments in its Blue Oval Brand, improving sales and profits, while wrapping its entire operations in an aura of invulnerability. But underneath all the Ford-branded success lies a problem that, more often than not, has been conveniently swept under the rug: Ford’s luxury offerings are in chaos. The last time we checked in on Lincoln, Ford was trying to convince dealers that Lincoln’s future product would be competitive in the tough luxury market… without disclosing any details that might give salesmen hope that future Lincolns will be something other than an obviously tarted-up Ford. But as tough a sell as that is, Lincoln’s dealers seem to be even more worried about the more prosaic elements of Ford’s luxury brand turnaround…

According to Automotive News [sub], Ford has issued an ultimatum to its Lincoln dealers: either they agree to meet minimum brand requirements by September 1, or they face losing their franchise. Ford’s demands include that dealers

• Offer perks such as a free car wash and a Lincoln loaner vehicle to Lincoln service customers

• Have a dedicated service manager and dedicated sales staff for Lincoln, if the dealership is paired with a Ford store

• Have only the word “Lincoln,” without “Mercury,” appear on all franchise signage

• Have at least 30% of used-Lincoln inventory be certified pre-owned

And though these seem like basic requirements for a luxury dealer net, a number of Lincoln store owners are concerned with several demands.For example, what if a customer wants a full-sized loaner replacement for a vehicle that’s been turned in for service, but the dealer only has MKZs on the lot? A dealer complains

The rule is 80 percent of the customers that Ford follows up on have to get a Lincoln loaner… You may have a situation in the course of the day where you don’t have enough Lincoln loaner cars.

Another dealer notes that getting a used car certified as part of Lincoln’s CPO program could cost $400 per car. Yet another wonders how closely Ford will monitor compliance with its demands, and offers the following scenarioSay you have 10 used Lincolns in stock, and 40 percent were certified pre-owned, and you sold two of them. Now you’re down to eight in stock and only two being certified pre-owned, do you have to scramble to get two more certified pre-owns to make yourself compliant?Ford says it’s making itself available to answer questions from Lincoln dealers, but ultimately the dealers aren’t facing much of a choice. If they neither comply nor terminate their franchises by September 1, Ford says it will stop giving them a dealer discount, which could cost as much as $700 at retail. But if that’s what it comes to, some dealers may just sue Ford under local franchise laws. Meanwhile, though Ford has shown Lincoln dealers the stick, there’s still no sign of any carrots: nobody seems to know how Ford is going to convincingly fix Lincoln’s product issues. Until dealers know what they are going to be selling, it could be tough to get them to make any concessions. The battle for Ford’s struggling luxury division continues…

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  • Trollthattellsthetruth Trollthattellsthetruth on Apr 12, 2011

    I have a couple of ideas. Perhaps Lincoln should sell truly "tarted-up" Fords like Lexus does with Toyota; their cars should be quiet, safe, and understated. Some ideas would be taking Ford cars and increasing their chassis rigidity and sound insulation levels. I don't know about the cost to make these changes, but I feel that extra chassis bracing would not be that expensive (on the order of $1000 for the manufacturer). I believe that Lincoln's brand image can be something like "Understated American Luxury" which would be in sharp contrast to Cadillac's bold, brash style. I must admit that I am a Toyota fanboy. I also agree with the sentiment that cars such as the Lexus ES350 are "tarted-up" Camrys. This is ok, however, because the Camry is already such a great car. I think Ford is finally i the position where their Ford products are competitive and could serve as great base cars for Lincoln. The problem with Lincoln, it seems, is that it is a Ford with a higher price-tag and a badge; I believe a possible solution would be to make a Lincoln a heavily upgraded Ford. As I have stated before, I think a great start would be noticeable increases in chassis rigidity and quietness. The next step would be to upgrade the interior materials. Long story short, I think Lincoln should follow some of the steps taken by Lexus. One random idea: build the next Town-Car on the Ford F-150 platform. Give it the Ecoboost Engine and maybe a hybrid later on.

    • See 2 previous
    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Apr 13, 2011

      @Inside Looking Out In CA IS is all over the place - very popular among woman. I hardly see any MKZ though. Ford wanted to sell Lincoln in Europe late 90s. The plan was to replace Ford Scorpio with Lincoln LS. But then Ford decided otherwise and just discontinued Scorpio. Scorpio was competing with German midsize RWD cars but became stale and then bio-design restyle made it unpopular. Lincoln around is know for Town Car so you cannot say that Lincoln is not known outside of US. What it is known for full size comfortable cars.

  • Fred Fred on Apr 12, 2011

    My brief experience at the Lincoln dealer suggested that it's the cars that need updating more than dealers. As other have pointed out they need to make their cars something different than the Fords they are based on.

  • Bob65688581 Small by American standards, this car is just right for Europe, and probably China, although I don't really know, there. Upscale small cars don't exist in the US because Americans associate size and luxury, so it will have a tough time in the States... but again Europe is used to such cars. Audi has been making "small, upscale" since forever. As usual, Americans will miss an opportunity. I'll buy one, though!Contrary to your text, the EX30 has nothing whatsoever to do with the XC40 or C40, being built on a dedicated chassis.
  • Tassos Chinese owned Vollvo-Geely must have the best PR department of all automakers. A TINY maker with only 0.5-0.8% market share in the US, it is in the news every day.I have lost count how many different models Volvo has, and it is shocking how FEW of each miserable one it sells in the US market.Approximately, it sells as many units (TOTAL) as is the total number of loser models it offers.
  • ToolGuy Seems pretty reasonable to me. (Sorry)
  • Luke42 When I moved from Virginia to Illinois, the lack of vehicle safety inspections was a big deal to me. I thought it would be a big change.However, nobody drives around in an unsafe car when they have the money to get their car fixed and driving safely.Also, Virginia's inspection regimine only meant that a car was safe to drive one day a year.Having lived with and without automotive safety inspections, my confusion is that they don't really matter that much.What does matter is preventing poverty in your state, and Illinois' generally pro-union political climate does more for automotive safety (by ensuring fair wages for tradespeople) than ticketing poor people for not having enough money to maintain their cars.
  • ToolGuy When you are pulled over for speeding, whether you are given a ticket or not should depend on how attractive you are.Source: My sister 😉