By on April 11, 2011

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 scenario
Say 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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114 Comments on “Lincoln Dealers Have Questions… And Not About Product...”


  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Dead brand walking. 

    Lincoln may currently be the most irrelevant brand since Plymouth went Tango Uniform.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Truly. If Ford is serious about keeping Lincoln afloat as a “luxury” brand, they need to offer something akin to the Mark II Continental (aka the Jumbo T-Bird). A true luxury flagship, and damn the expense. If they have to sell it at a loss to regain some momentum and a reputation for excellence, so be it. Slapping whale faces on tarted up Fords won’t cut it.

      • 0 avatar

        Good point, but…the Mark II Continental isn’t a Jumbo Tbird, its a completely unique product, aside from the powertrain. (Which was blueprinted, so that’s actually unique.) Which goes to show how historically disjointed Lincoln has been for decades. From a branding standpoint, its rather hard to separate the Good Lincoln from the Bad Lincoln.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        Yeah, the “jumbo T-bird” was intended to describe it, not define it. I assumed the “cost no object flagship” part would have made that clear.

      • 0 avatar
        KitaIkki

        “Jumbo T-birds” were the Mark III and Mark IV.  Actually they weren’t jumbo.  They were about the same size.  Just “T-bird with a Rolls Royce grille,” as Iacocca’s original directive called it.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        I gather you’ve never seen a Mark II Continental…

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      The questions seem very petty and small for a “luxury” brand.

      80+% getting Lincoln loaners? If you have one bad day, then you have one bad day. You still have 27 to 30 other days in the month to make it up. The only way you fall short is if you habitually don’t have enough Lincoln loaners in the first place. In which case, you’re not complying with the requirement. Perhaps the goal should be 90%, with a financial penalty clause cutting marketing dollars if it ever drops below 75%. Nothing like putting some “teeth” into things to get a little compliance.

      30+% CPO? If the dealer only has 4 CPOs out of 10 cars on the lot, and gets down to 2 of 8, the simple answer is that he sucks it up and CPOs one of the cars to get to 3 of 8. If the dealer consistently drops below 30%, he’s not really a Lincoln dealer.

      None of the terms seems particularly onerous.

    • 0 avatar
      Ralph ShpoilShport

      As you may recall the Mark II actually wasn’t a Lincoln, either.  I’m not sure it even applies to this discussion about Lincoln.  Flagships are all well and good but Lincoln needs high quality products that bring something delightful to the table.  Ford can probably prosper without Lincoln and their record of managing “other brands” has never been stellar.  Perhaps it’s time to go it alone.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    What I have never understood about stand alone Lincoln dealerships is how they are expected to survive. I know Ford did a study in the early eighties when Lincoln sold twice as many vehicles as they do today and the only Lincoln dealership in the country that was capable of surviving as just a Lincoln franchise is the one I worked at which was the largest Lincoln (not L-M just Lincoln) dealership in the country.
     
    The only way I see Lincoln dealers surviving is either as part of a Ford dealership or in combination with some other franchise. I actually wonder how much longer Ford will continue selling Lincolns as the current volume is so far behind anyone else in that segment it doesn’t seem to make whole lot of sense. If I was a standalone Lincoln dealer I would really have to question the value of the franchise especially considering Ford wants the dealers to spend more money to continue as dealers. Lincoln is a complete trainwreck.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Here in Harrisburg, there were two Lincoln Mercury dealers – one located in the eastern suburbs, the other in the western suburbs. About three years ago, they were closed, and the Lincoln Mercury franchise was given to a more centrally located Ford dealer. Now it’s a Ford Lincoln dealer, and seems to be doing fine.

      Prior to World War II, Lincoln offered a very limited line-up compared to Cadillac and Packard (the luxury heavy hitters of the day), and the cars were only sold through selected Ford dealers. I could see the same thing eventually happening today.

      • 0 avatar
        KitaIkki

        If Lincoln sales volume keeps shrinking, sooner or later it will be in the Hyundai Equus territory where the customer never needs to set foot in the dealership.  All sale and service are done through home visits.  This could work for an ultra-luxury model in the tradition of the 1955 Continental Mark II.  (It would be a “Ford Lincoln”  Lincoln will no longer be a separate brand)

  • avatar
    redliner

    I was actually interested in checking out the MKZ hybrid, but just a few months ago the Volvo/Lincoln dealership in my area dropped Lincoln and picked up Kia. Now the nearest Lincoln dealer is more than an hour and a half away. I don’t care how many free loaners you give me or how many sprinkles the donuts in the waiting area have. If the closest dealer is too far away, I’M NOT BUYING. What good are these services if the number of dealers is insufficient.

    This will only get worse as more Lincoln dealers fall by the wayside or decide to invest in a different brand.

    Lincoln (and Cadillac for that matter) need to stop messing around in the lower half of the luxury segment and expand into the upper half. Does anyone cross shop an MKS with a BMW 7 or a Lexus LS? Where are the sporty coupes, the luxury convertibles? I know these are not volume vehicles, but a luxury branded car should be something you want to own, not something you get stuck with.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch

      Tell me what the point is of a “fast” M6 series convertible?
       
      Or a X3, X6, X1, or the GL against the ML and or G.
       
      Its horrible to take a current Taurus and put it under Linc badges.. and try and sell it that way, but don’t be dumb and try and compare a Taurus for LINC against a 5/7, S/E or a A8/6.
       
      It doesn’t work.
       
      Also..
      Ya dont actually think people who buy the extra niche cars that the germans make really WANT the cars they leased. You dont THINK that.. do you? They want the badge on the hood.
       
      That’s why most of what the german’s sell.. is LEASED.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @redliner: “Lincoln (and Cadillac for that matter) need to stop messing around in the lower half of the luxury segment and expand into the upper half.”
       
      Why do Cadillac and Lincoln mess around in the lower half of luxury segment? Because of CAFE they have no other choice. They have to keep the corporate average up, and therefore Cadillac and Lincoln sell cars that are not part of their normal purview. Why do domestic luxury marques occasionally show a V12 or V16 prototype and then it’s never developed or released? Because a car like that would ruin the CAFE numbers.
       
      If Lincoln dies, it will be mostly because of CAFE. After nearly 35 years of this madness, our own government has destroyed the domestic auto industry.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        @geozinger :
         
        CAFE is total corporate, not brand-specific, so you could build several thousand 15mpg Lincoln or Cadillac or whatever vehicles and as long as you had Fiesta/Cruze/Focus/Aveo to offset them, you are fine.  customers would still have to pay gas guzzler tax on them.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        To go along with what Faygo is saying, during the 1980s and 1990s I can recall seeing HUGE discounts on Escorts, Cavaliers, ect when manufacturers were trying to “make CAFE” before the government nailed them.  (I don’t recall seeing that anymore.  Maybe cause vehicles have gotten more efficient while CAFE hasn’t moved till recently?)

      • 0 avatar
        aspade

        I hate CAFE as much as the next enthusiast.  But that’s a weak excuse.
         
        If Lincoln is going to be a real luxury brand then they need to do what other real luxury brands have done for decades – ignore CAFE and roll the non compliance tax into the cost of their products.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @faygo: After a certain point, a company only has so much money to devote to new product. If you are forced to build and sell cars that are not selling, or forced to sell more cars that are less profitable, it will eventually kill the company. @EdDan: the blowout sales of the good mileage but low profit Escorts, Cavaliers and etc., are what got the D3 the trouble they’re in today. Do you really think that if GM didn’t have to stop building the B bodies so they could build more SUVs, they wouldn’t have? And to address aspades point, precisely because of CAFE, the D3 cheapened their luxury lines (in order to make more Escorts and Cavaliers they had to practically give away to keep CAFE averages up) that no one will pay the gas guzzler tax. I think the luxury brands are heavily maybe irreparably damaged. Granted CAFE is not the only reason why American luxury brands are in the toilet, but it’s a big reason.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        CAFE didn’t force Cadillac to design the interior on the 2005 STS or disallow Lincoln from putting the 3.5L Ecoboost engine into something that isn’t on the D3/D4 platform.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    So other franchises that have similar requirements, how are those requirements handled?  Some car manufacturer has to have imposed similar requirements at some point along the line.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Other automakers compensate dealers for their franchise requirements by supplying the dealers with desirable products that sell in sufficient numbers for the dealers to meet requirements and make a profit.

  • avatar
    william442

    What is really wrong here. I once bought a Mercedes from a Florida dealer that claimed they had more MB loaners than ANY other dealer. The first time I went in for service, I got a very tired Isuzu Trooper.
    Cadillac had great success for years with tarted up Buicks, and Oldsmobiles, aka C bodies.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    For all the GM-haters out there – probably for good reason – Ford IS NOT out of the woods. Can they survive on just Ford alone? I doubt it. Lincoln needs to either be revived with new, luxurious products or it will die. Then what happens? Will Ford buy Kia? Or vice-versa? Interesting thoughts.

    I can’t believe the hapless dealers are put on the spot like this. What would any business man do? I’m sure the dealers are assessing the risk, and regarding the uncertainty, it’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Honestly, I think it is possible for Ford to be “it” (especially with “Platinum” editions) and survive.  I was about to say; “The only question is which manufacturer will try it first?”  But then I realized that Hyundai sort of is (save the discussion of Equis as a separate brand) you have Elantras and Accents sharing showroom space with Genesis’.  Branding is a funny thing.  Do I think GM could survive as just Chevrolet?  No.  But I do think that GM could survive as just Chevrolet and Cadillac.  Is there enough difference between a Buick and a Chevy?  I don’t know.  Would Regal customers really not buy Malibu LTZs?  I don’t know.  I just have a hunch that GM would be better off as Chevrolet and Cadillac.  I say this as someone who shed a tear for Olds and Pontiac as they were euthanized.

      • 0 avatar
        pdieten

        Buick would be just fine but GM’s problem is that they’re letting Chevrolet stomp on Buick’s and GMC’s turf. If you’re going to have a midpriced brand, then you have to have an entry level brand. An entry level vehicle should not come in LTZ trims with Bose 8-speaker stereos and heated leather seats. GM should make people who want that level of luxury go to the Buick/GMC dealership.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        @Dan: Ford would (and currently does) do just fine as One and Only Ford. Ford tries to be all things to all people.

        GM needs at least 3 levels of cars: Chevy’s owner value, Caddy’s driver premium, and Buick’s passenger comfort, with GMC providing the semi-premium work trucks & wagons. It’s a good formula if you’ve got the volume to allow (and maintain) meaningful differentiation between the brands. I think the Chevy LTZ trim is a problem because it’s too uplevel and competes on features with Buick, whereas Buick’s tuning and refinement are invisible and need to be driven to be appreciated.

      • 0 avatar
        MadHungarian

        The entry-level brands have been competing against their upscale brethren ever since the introduction of the Caprice and the LTD in 1965.  Of course, these days hardly anyone produces a genuinely entry level car.  Nothing like the old Biscaynes with taxi upholstery, crank windows, three on the tree, no A/C and no power assisted anything.

    • 0 avatar
      Contrarian

      For all practical purposes, Ford is already surviving without Lincoln.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        I was about to say the same thing. Ford has long lived or died by the Ford brand. Lincoln brought in big profits from the late 1960s through the late 1970s with the Marks III, IV and V and the “regular” Continentals. But even then the company wasn’t dependent on Lincoln for survival.

        The only time the company really depended on the profits brought in by Lincoln was in the 1980s, when Town Car sales rocketed after Cadillac downsized the DeVille/Fleetwood to a small, front-wheel-drive platform with ugly styling.

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        I saw someone putting the top down on their hardtop Volvo C70 coupe-convertible.  It all looked nicely packaged and then thought, now why did Ford have to sell off their Swedish brand?
         
        My point is Lincoln seems to positioned against Buick rather than Audi or Lexus.  Just my two pennies worth.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Dan; you and Contrarian may be right.

      I do believe that there will be/has to be a winnowing of “excess” car brands in the near future. Figuring in economies of scale and how every nut and bolt is bean-counted to death, brands that no longer make sense; i.e. lack of sales needed to justify them, will have to go.

      Personally, I don’t see myself in a Buick – I’m just a Chevy guy (at least right now!), in other words, basic transportation gussied-up to fit my style. So far, Ford and Chevy are the only OEM’s that fit that bill (Impala, Malibu, Galaxie 500 – er, ugh – Taurus – or whatever they call it this year).

      One more thing: Dan, I feel your pain about Olds. I really miss the old “Cutlass” brand and what it stood for!

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Zackman,

        I grew up in an Oldsmobile family, and had a 1972 Cutlass Supreme Holiday coupe until 2000. It was a great car. I was sorry when GM announced that it was killing Oldsmobile in December 2000, but, in retrospect, it was a mercy killing. And a big problem was that the GM marketing geniuses had plastered the Cutlass name on so many different and mediocre cars in the 1980s and 1990s that it no longer stood for anything!

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        @geeber: I agree. Cutlass Ciera? What? My idea of what an Olds is supposed to be is Dr. Olds, Elephant Engine Ernie and all the rest prepping a 442! Man, that was a long time ago!

      • 0 avatar
        william442

        Come on Zack. It wasn’t that long ago. My 442 was probably the best automoblle I’ve owned, even if it did not do all that well on the dragstrip. Of course i was in GM management at the time, and the car was close to perfect.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        @ William442:

        It sure was a long time ago, as I was referring to the late 1960’s! I know, I’m gettin’ old, but 43 years is quite a bit of time even if it does seem like yesterday!

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        How is the proliferation of Cutlass sub brands any worse than the proliferation of Corolla sub brands? Or is it a matter of familiarity breeding contempt?

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Ford won’t buy Kia – Hyundai already did, and Kia’s grown to the point where Ford probably can’t afford the price tag.

      I doubt HKIA would buy Ford – again, too expensive, and Hyundai / Kia sells plenty well without Ford legacy cost burdens.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Hyundai only owns ~39% of Kia, the other 61% is still up for grabs.  Though I suspect Hyundai would readily get into a bidding war if someone else tried to buy Kia.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Ford made a big mistake selling Volvo. Volvo was globally recognised (and sold) as a premium brand. Lincoln is not sold globally and struggles to be a “premium” manufacturer, especially now that Ford is selling Titanium spec level Flexes, Foci etc.
    Lincoln will be dropped in the next few years – Ford has done well in many other areas but their whole luxury/premium strategy is a mess and their slowness in selling in China and India are their biggest two errors.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      That’s a really good point – Ford was doing an excellent job making Volvos and Fords on shared platforms and not letting it’s customers know about it. Ford and Volvo customers probably didn’t cross shop with each other  – but I can certainly imagine that a typical Lincoln customer would be happy with a Platinum Ford.

      • 0 avatar

        IIRC, Volvo lost money on a regular basis. Even if it was the best of the PAG’s acquisitions, that’s not exactly a good thing.  And the Volvo platform used for Fords?  Not exactly a good decision, since the sales volume has been pretty terrible from day one and sales projections for many of them were lowered after a few months of soft sales. (Insert Panther sales reference here)

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        Volvo lost nearly as much money for Ford as Saab burned money at GM.

        Horrible, horrible acquisitions in both cases.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      I have to wonder how Saab would have done under GM ownership had GM management not proceeded to systematically excise every factor which made Saab unique and desireable? The added insult of course was the “born from jets” ad campaign – rolled out just about the time GM had succeded in grinding every trace of the aircraft builder heritage from the product line. (“Born from Jets”? Well, no. But “Born from Opels and Chevys” just doesn’t resonate.)

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        Saab would have folded up even sooner.

        Make no mistake, BMW and Benz were eating Saab’s lunch, and GM allowed Saab to grab more mainstream sales than they ever would have gotten as a small niche player.

        Prior to GM, Saab made 1.25 different cars: the 20-year-old 900 based on the then decade-old 99, and the Lancia / Fiat / Alfa-shared 9000. But don’t fool yourself – the 1980’s 9000 was a big break from 30 years of 99/900 tradition.

        GM spent a lot of money trying to fix Saab that would have been better spent on Oldsmobile. If GM had never gotten involved, Saab would have fold up on their own, and GM wouldn’t have been blamed for giving Saab an extended lease on life.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        No, GM wouldn’t have been blamed for “ruining” SAAB.  They were ruined before GM touched them.  However, GM did nothing to make them better.  All they did was buy time…kind of like adding some extra bilge pumps on the Titanic…

    • 0 avatar
      SP

      Yech.  Ever since Ford took over, Volvo has been a poser brand.  “Moving upmarket” doesn’t work when everyone else does it too.  They tried to make it a prestige brand and failed.  In my opinion, it’s because of nebulous brand image and boring product.  Not the design, which has been “avant-garde” for a while.  The actual product.

  • avatar
    mtr2car1

    It’s these small minded complaints from these small minded dealers that are a big part of Lincoln’s problem.
     
    Most other luxury brands seem to be able to manage their loaner cars w/o worrying about running out on any one given day – and if your biggest worry is getting busted by ford b/c you popped thru a couple extra CPO cars for the month and it wacked out your ratio…just be glad your not a suzuki dealer for crying out loud.
     
    At this point I would give Ford the benefit of the doubt that they can pull together a better product mix over the dealer gripes – the lincoln store by me is a dump and I for one hope ford holds their feet to the fire.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    I would not be at all surprised to see a number of standalone Lincoln dealers either drop Lincoln and add another franchise or go out of business. My guess is a Lincoln franchise today is about worthless and a dealer can’t invest more money when he’s not making a profit and has nothing on the horizon that leads him to believe new product will be shortly forthcoming. Perhaps the only value a Lincoln franchise has is to a Ford dealer, it certainly has no value as a standalone brand.
     
    I have said it many times and I’ll say it again, Ford is completely clueless in the luxury car market. If Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, Volvo & Lincoln aren’t irrefutable proof of Ford’s cluelessness I don’t know what would be.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Lincoln isn’t going anywhere. Sales-wise Lincoln is currently nearly even with Infiniti, and no one is wondering where that brand is going. 

    The issue on the list causing the most problems at my dealership is the one requiring dedicated Lincoln salespeople. We still aren’t sure how Ford is going set the rules on that. If the requirement is just having a certain number of people on staff certified on all Lincoln vehicles, or requiring that you be certified on Lincolns to sell Lincoln vehicles, then those goals are easily achieved and it’s no big deal. 

    If Ford tries to mandate that dealers split their staff and certain people can only sell Fords or Lincolns, there will be a lot of resistance. 

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Actually Nullo, I see Infiniti as “Japanese Oldsmobiles” just the way Lexus is a “Japanese Buick” (at least everything that’s not the LS or IS.)  But that doesn’t make me wonder where it is going.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Ininiti is Japanese Cadillac. Lexus is an actual premium car. There is no American Lexus.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        “Lexus is an actual premium car.”

        Not as long as they are selling on price, which they are. There are really only two Lexus products: tarted-up Camrys and a full-sized sedan that is discounted $25,000 from the German competition.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Maybe you have Lexus confused with Hyundai. The March 2011 Motor Trend has a comparison test of full sized luxury cars. As tested prices were:

        Hyndai Equus – $58,900
        Mercedes Benz S400 Hybrid – $89,565
        Jaguar XJ – $83,875
        Lexus LS 460 – $79,229
        Audi A8 – $89,325
        Porsche Panamera – $91,670
        BMW 740i – $83,425

        The most common Lexus products around here seem to be IS variants. Are they Camry based, or are they full sized sedans sold at an imaginary discount?

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Isn’t there also a tarted-up Corolla? Kind of like an entry-level model.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Lexus two cheapest care (the CT and HS) are tarted-up Avensises (Avenses?), which are, in turn, Camries that were left in the dryer too long.

        So no, not Corollas, but the HS does share Corolla-esque proportions.  Note that it could be worse: Audi sells a Golf with compromised headroom (the A3) or Mercedes sells a front-drive sports bus (the B-Class)

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      Makes me wonder if all along Ford’s plan is to combine Lincoln w/ Ford franchises. Mandating dealers to spend money when they aren’t making any is a surefire way to get them to drop their franchises without having to buy them out.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      The requirement to have Lincolns as loaners for the service department is dumb.  I’m sure that a Fusion would do just fine.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        The reason a Fusion would do fine is because a uplevel Fusion is now better than the Mercury it cannibalized, having only the Lincoln badge as a major differentiator.

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        Haha.  See, the MKZ is a Fusion, but you can’t tell the customers that, or they would just buy Fusions instead.  So you might as well make all the loaners MKZs.

        Your comment is right on target in a strange way.  It’s like a Zen thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Apples and oranges, I know, but that’s how BMW handles Mini. Even though it’s the same dealership, separate showrooms and sales staff.  The advantage is you get sales people who really now the product and the clientele it appeals to.  That said, I’d hate to depend on moving Lincolns exclusively to make my mortgage.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m kinda wondering where the Infiniti brand is going.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Good question. Nissan is doing well for the moment with their pile-em-high and sell-em-cheap tactics on Altimas and Versas, but Infiniti is practically a single model lineup. Other than the G series, what do they sell? They seem have use the same playbook Cadillac does. G or CTS for adventurous near luxury buyers, and gaudy trucks for the kind of nouveau riche that doesn’t result from intelligence.

      • 0 avatar
        genuineleather

        +1

        When dealers are offering $2,000 BELOW invoice on a brand-new model (as they are with the M), you have serious brand issues.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      If the requirement is just having a certain number of people on staff certified on all Lincoln vehicles,
       
      That wouldn’t be that hard:
       
      Dealer guy – “See that Taurus over there?”
      Customer – “Yeah.”
      Dealer guy – “Well, this MKS is the exact same thing, inside and out…but it costs $10K more.”
       
       

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I still am unsure of the wisdom of keeping the Lincoln brand around other than to avoid the costs of francise laws.  The biggest problem is still product.  Where is the CTS and 3-series fighter?  They started the fight with the LS and then turned tail before they could refine it.  I just can’t take Lincoln seriously as even an entry luxury maker.

  • avatar
    CamaroKid

    GM and Cadillac could learn A LOT from Lincolns lead.

    Lincoln might not have the depth of product… But offering Lexus level service is a GREAT first step.   Customer Service WINS customers.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Given that Cadillac, Buick and GMC each vastly outsell Lincoln, I doubt there’s much GM could learn from Lincoln, aside from confirming that a lack of product hurts sales. Something they learned in spades with Oldsmobile, then Buick.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure if you’ve been to a Cadillac dealership lately, when we dropped my moms SRX at the dealership to get complimentary service they had plenty of loaner cars. Ended up getting to drive a 2011 AWD CTS around for a day, and when we went to pick it up there were free drinks/snacks in the service department. They did wash the car, vacuumed the interior and polished the wheels. Overall a lot better than when I take my Chevrolet in and the plastic is often on the seat still. All that said, this was a Rich Hendrick owned dealership so maybe he sets higher standards, but I was very surprised at how hospitable they were.

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      Recent “Lexus-level” service at my local dealer has included Altima and Galant loaners.

  • avatar
    peteinsonj

    I don’t think any of the items are onerous — if the dealer sells enough cars!

    I have both a BMW & Saab from one of the larger dealers — when either are in for service, I’ve occasionally been given (no charge) an Enterprise car when they were out of loaners — as long as I don’t get an Aveo — who cares?  They’ve gone the mile and made sure I have transportation.

  • avatar
    erikhans

    Edward, why so kind with Lincoln/Ford? I think it deserves the same level of “snarkiness” that SAAB always seems to get from this site. At least SAAB always had their own body styles. Anywway.. Ford really needs to dump a  boat load of money into lincoln and let them loose with their own design team. That should take care of it.

    • 0 avatar
      faygo

      @erikhans :
       
      you mean hiring a specific design director and setting up management structure unique from the rest of the company ?  oh wait, that was done in December.  it’s not going to happen overnight, but change is happening.
       
      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/ask-the-best-and-brightest-does-lincoln-need-more-than-a-new-designer/

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      “Edward, why so kind with Lincoln/Ford?” Obviously, to keep the Panther Power contingent from nailing his hide to the back of a 2005 TC Cartier.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Saab didn’t always have their own body styles. There was the Saab 6000, which was a badge engineered Lancia Delta. There was the Saab 9000, which was a Saabified Lancia Thema. There was the Saab 9-2x, which was a Saab grill on a Subaru Imprezza. There was the Saab 9-7x, which was a Chevy Trailblazer in drag.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Technically, the GM900/9-3 was a Saabified Opel Vectra, and it shows if you see a contemporary Vectra hatchback.  The 9-5 shares the same chassis, and it shows if you see a Vectra or Saturn L-Series wagon parked next to one.

        Neither are quite as blatant as the 9000, 9-7x or 9-2x.  The 9-7 is particularly terrible.

      • 0 avatar
        WRohrl

        I’ve never heard of a Saab 6000, got a link?

        The 9000 was not so much a Saabified Thema as it was a codeveloped vehicle that spawned the 9000, the Thema, the Alfa 164, and what was it, the Fiat Croma?  Some common parts for sure, but definitely different cars with an extremely wide range of powertrains powering them (everything from a diesel 4cyl to a Ferrari V8).  If I remember correctly, the 9000 ended up with a longer run than any of the others.

        The 9-2x, while kind of an abomination (I had one), was great in that GM was offering $6k off the sticker in 2005, so it ended up cheaper than the WRX.  Then they stopped the incentive and many people sold the cars a year or two later for more than they paid for them (myself included). 

        The 9-7x, well, I just don’t have any comments about that one…

      • 0 avatar
        mazder3

        @WRohrl
        CJinSD meant to type “600”. Seriously. There was a SAAB-Lancia 600 but it only existed in Sweden and Norway. I had no clue myself.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saab_600

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Thanks mazder3. I’m not sure if that was a typo or a failure of memory on my part. Saab 600 indeed.

        http://www.saabhistory.com/2008/12/01/the-saab-600-1980-1982/

  • avatar
    kenwood

    What’s so difficult to understand?  If you have 10 Lincolns, 4 of which are CPO and you sell two of them, that means your clientele likes CPO Lincolns, so you certify some more.  The certification process involves an hour or two of going over the car.  I doubt there’s a Lincoln dealership that is selling cars so fast that they don’t have a couple hours to certify some cars.

    Same thing with loaners.  If you find yourself running out of Lincoln loaners, you get a couple more to meet the demand and be happy that your service dept is bringing in customers.

    Maybe the bonehead dealer who has these problems is exactly the type of dealer who should lose his franchise.

    • 0 avatar
      WRohrl

      The guy obviously is a bonehead, to wit:

      Say 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?

      You’d only have to certify ONE more to get back over the 30% mandate, not two….

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    At this point it is really not that simple. No matter what Ford does with Lincoln they are not instantly going to gain market share. Realize you’re talking about a brand that isn’t even considered by the vast majority of luxury car buyers. Ford has so thoroughly decimated the Lincoln brand it is years away from becoming a contender if ever.
     
    Ford’s best path with Lincoln I think is to combine it with Ford. The more I think about it Ford is well on their way to eliminating standalone Lincoln stores without having to buy out the Lincoln dealers. A standalone Lincoln store is simply not a viable business proposition. If Ford continues on its present path with Lincoln they will gain incremental sales at very little cost. Compared to having actual Lincoln models selling tarted up Fords built on the same assembly lines that build the Ford versions costs next to nothing.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Combine it with Ford?

      In theory, FoMoCo combined Lincoln with Mercury, and Lincoln should be prospering with the removal of a (completely) redundant brand, leaving higher sales at the remaining brand.

      In practice, FoMoCo combined Lincoln and Mercury under Ford by raising the bar at Ford so high, it cannibalized both.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      “Compared to having actual Lincoln models, selling tarted up Fords built on the same assembly lines that build the Ford versions costs next to nothing.”
       
      The tried that strategy for a long time. It was branded “Mercury” Didn’t work out so well in the end.
       
      IMO, they either need to commit to truly distinct, premium models, or kill the brand and go with a broad spectrum of offering badged “Ford”. They’ve already established the pattern, with Mustang pricing spanning from $22k to $54k (plus insane prices for stupid-powerful Shelby-badged versions)

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I don’t know enough about dealer operations to know if the demands placed on Lincoln dealers are truly onerous. I think the service I’ve been getting from my old Pontiac dealer (is now a Buick GMC store) is above what is being asked by Ford. The service was like that before the BK, and has remained that way. The local Chevy dealer’s service is very good also. Probably the reason why these two dealerships nail down a fair amount of the business in our area.
     
    If Lincoln dealers are truly taxed by providing that level of service, then something needs to change. Quickly.

  • avatar
    Loser

    Elizabeth….I mean, Mercury, I’m coming to join you!

  • avatar
    mjz

    Unless Ford is going to make Lincoln a GLOBAL luxury brand, this is much ago about nothing. No way Ford is going to invest billions to make Lincoln a North America only luxury brand. Ain’t gonna happen.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    Why are Lincoln even trying selling non CPO used Lincolns?
    If the used inventory isn’t suitable then it probably shouldn’t be even on the lot.
     
     
     
     

  • avatar
    gasser

    Lincoln, is already finished. Ford has a long history of horrible brand mismanagement. Look at Taurus/Sable selling hundreds of thousands a year. Lack of investment in new body styles, lack of fixes to head gasket and transmission issues, lack of model changes to allow for the incorporation of new safety equipment without constant expenses of redesign, all conspired to kill the brand. Look at Jaguar. Bought for almost $3billion with hundreds of millions more to modernize its plants. It was kept as a money loser until it had all new Jaguars and then sold off. As to Volvo, the volume may have fallen off, but the platforms were used for the Ford 500, Taurus X and Taurus without needing huge development costs. As to Lincoln itself, look at the Town Car. Who walks away from a volume of 50,000 units a year??? Only after the fact was this loss of business addressed by trying to sell an SUV to livery car buyers. Alan Mulally has done a great job on cash management of Ford, but I don’t think that he can juggle finances to make up for Lincoln’s total lack of relevant product.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      To be fair, Mullay did what he had to do simply to keep Ford out of the BK which it was clearly headed.

      Now, the question is whether Mullaly or Akerson will make the bigger mistake of cutting the meat and brains from their companies going forward.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    People don’t not buy Lincolns because of the dealership experience; they stay away because:

    1. They’re hideous

    2. Have a laughable premium over nearly identical (and better-looking) Ford products

    What Lincoln needs is PRODUCT; I think they could double volume if they put out a reasonably sophistocated RWD sedan with a V8 (none of this EcoBoost/FWD crap that the demographic clearly doesn’t want), slapped the Continental name on it, and pushed it out the door for aorund $55k. They’d be able to pick up A LOT of former Town Car, Deville, and upgrading Buick customers. Hack the wheelbase, add air suspension and $10k, and voila: you have a MK IX halo for the brand.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      A proper, RWD Mark IX (nine) coupe would be excellent. Same with a proper, full-size RWD, sui-rear Continental.

      But from all reports, FoMoCo is bound and determined to stick Lincoln with the failures of impenetrable “MK-WTF” naming and grille engineering done badly, whether it kills the brand or not. It’s completely unbelievable to me that the incompetence runs this high.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        A suicide door hardtop coupe or four door convertible would be extremely difficult to pass through crash test guidelines, and adding a b pillar would kill the design aesthetic for having the suicide doors.
         
        I’m not a huge fan of the MK-whatever names, but if the products are top notch, people will forgive a confusing naming scheme.  I do see the point in not flip flopping on names again so soon after the MK* transition.  It would have been better if Lincoln had never tried switching to meaningless alphabetic model names, but now that the move has been made, it might look worse suddenly switching back.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        As others note, Mazda (RX-8), Saturn, and every extended cab truck say you can make a 4-seater with 2+2 doors.

        Heck, even the current Rolls has sui rear doors.

        Lincoln can & should, too.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        The RX-8, Ion, Veloster, and Extended Cab trucks have sort of vestigial half doors.  The Roller has a hard B-pilllar that ruins the look of having full four suicide doors.
         
        I would love to see Lincoln come up with a four full door vehicle with rear suicide doors and no billar betwixt them, but it seems to me that it’s the type of thing that someone would have done already if it was feasible.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        Even if they merely aped the Rolls (as they did with the old Contis), would that really be such a bad thing?

        At least it’d be obviously different from anything else made by any other US OEM, and announce that Lincoln has high aspirations.

  • avatar
    lastwgn

    What Lincoln needs desparately is something different from everything else.  Most notably, different from a Ford.  It must be RWD, it must be V-8.  What is the other distinguishing feature that would set it apart from everything else on the road and revitalize the brand?  Suicide doors.  Go back to the clam shell doors with a RWD sedan and they will have the distinctive product they desparately need.  Once they have re-established that premium marque sedan, THEN they can successfully add a second new and completely different product from everything else on the market.  A RWD two-door sedan.  If Mazda can engineer a 4 door RX-8, and if every truck maker can figure out how to make clam shell doors for its pickups, why not a distinctive 4 door sedan that goes back to the very best of Lincoln? 

    Problem solved.  Short of something distinctive like that, I see no reason for Lincoln to exist.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Its all a pressure tactic by FMCO to reduce the number of dealers in the legal end game when the falbeil finally drops.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    With apologies in advance to Nullo, I don’t get the separate sales staff/service manager requirement – from a customer perspective. 
    One chiseling service manager is much like another, and one smarmy lying sales guy is much like another.     Do I care that the service manager just dealt with a Mustang owner before I drove in?  Do I care that the sales guy sold a Fiesta this morning?
    I do get the Lincoln loaner requirement – give the customer a nicely appointed Ford and he’ll wonder why he paid a whopping big premium for a badge and a really ugly grill.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Ford has no capability to turn Lincoln around. Hell…they have a long way to go to get Ford turned around.
    Ford has continually mismanaged Lincoln…to the point now where they offer ZERO advantage over a similar Ford. Plus, when your whole lineup consists of half-assed rebadges of mediocre appliances, there is little doubt why Lincoln’s sales are utterly horrid.
    Lincoln needs to go away. The brand is beyond repair.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Lincoln may well be beyond repair, but if so, it isn’t only because the cars look too similar to Fords. Looking back farther than most other posters, the 1952 through 1955 Lincolns were quite similar in overall shape to both the Fords and Mercurys of 1952-1954, but in spite of that each line had its own styling with good brand separation, as well as notably high-quality assembly and materials for the Lincolns, and plenty of old farts like me have good memories of these cars. Starting with the 1956 models, Lincoln acquired its own bodies. Again there was a good deal of success, culminating in the relatively compact 1961-1963 4-door convertibles and sedans. It wasn’t until the end of the 1960’s that there started to be more commonality between Lincolns and other Ford lines, but this was more a case of the Ford and Mercury cars moving upscale in size and appointments. Now, after about forty years without significant separation between the makes – similar size, similar build quality, not enough differentation in looks – maybe it is time for the Ford folks to make the decision either to drop the brand or truly differentiate it from Ford and give buyers more reason to consider Lincoln.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    All this talk about Lincoln building $50,000+ RWD V-8 sedans is ridiculous.  There just aren’t enough of those cars sold from all makes put together to justify Lincoln selling one too as a US/Mexico/Canada/ME-only brand.  You have to wonder why Ford hasn’t introduced Lincoln into China, the world’s fastest growing market.  Perhaps it’s the canary in the coalmine.  In the same way Ford not reserving Mercury.com was for all those years.  The writing is on the wall.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      I think, deep down fundamentally, Ford is poor at strategic thinking, but very good tactically. This is why Ford is late to the EV party, and weak in China and India. OTOH, Ford is good at the basics, hence the Focus / Fusion cars being world class or close to it. As the GT proves, Ford can make good RWD cars with excellent dynamics, if they just put their heads to it. But my sense with Lincoln is they don’t have the corporate will to make Linc a success.

      OTOH, GM is pretty good at deep strategic thinking, hence their excellent position in China as a first mover, and similar position with the Volt in the EV business. The problem is that the multi-brand thing got out of control. With only 3+1 remaining brands to manage, hopefully, this frees things up with clarity.

  • avatar
    eldard

    Stick a fork in it and call it a day.

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    Thank God for free speech.
    I am so glad to hear that everyone knows what wrong with Ford/Lincoln.  Has anyone every though that maybe just maybe Ford has a plan for them and is just not sharing it with YOU.  Everyone with a decent reading level can ascertain that Lincoln has been lacking product for nearly my whole life. Ford has always done a poor job of making them different enough. They even admitted it a few years back with the Edge/MKX and would rectify  the problem during the next total redo. The problem here is that no one is coming up with anything original or at-least different than what the status qua already knows. RWD, V8, different skins, it will take more than that to redefine Lincoln. Which is what Ford is in need of. No it will take a total cultural change, one like at some of its rivals (Fords not Lincolns).  Ford already makes really good cars despite some of the nonsense spouted on this post, but what they really need is a Great Lincoln.
    I to have some ideas for Lincoln. I actually shared them with them about four years ago.  Of course they responded with the same corporate banter that they all do.  However they did in the letter agree that a total cultural change would be needed and would happen. The question from me to Ford is when.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    If Ford actually does have a plan to turn Lincoln around I think it’s high time they put it into effect. I think their plan is to consolidate Lincoln with Ford dealerships and continue to offer Ford variations as Lincoln models. I don’t see Ford spending the kind of money it would take to produce Lincoln only models especially considering Lincoln is not a global brand. Given Lincoln’s present status in the luxury car segment you can’t make a business case for the investment it would take to produce a line up of Lincoln only vehicles. Yet on the other hand Ford can continue along its present Lincoln path and actually make money incrementally. From a business perspective it’s virtually a no brainer to consolidate Lincoln with Ford dealerships and continue on the present path.
     
    If Ford was capable of managing a luxury brand they would have kept Jaguar/Land Rover and/or Volvo as those are global brands where Lincoln isn’t. Ford could not make money with those established global brands (which have far superior product offerings to Lincoln) so why would anyone have any reasonable expectation they could make Lincoln a successful global brand? Lincoln is all but totally irrelevant as a domestic luxury brand so trying to turn it into a global brand is way beyond Ford’s capabilities. Ford could not profitably run well known/established global luxury brands with competitive products (products that Ford paid to develop). Mullally said the reason those brands had to be sold is because Ford’s focus had to be on the Ford brand, in other words that Ford was not capable of successfully running more than one brand. To be sure, the buyers of Volvo & Jaguar/Land Rover did not buy those brands with the intention of losing money.
     
    As good as Ford is with the Ford brand they are equally as bad with luxury car brands and have proven this time and time again.

    • 0 avatar
      getacargetacheck

       Given Lincoln’s present status in the luxury car segment you can’t make a business case for the investment it would take to produce a line up of Lincoln only vehicles. Yet on the other hand Ford can continue along its present Lincoln path and actually make money incrementally. From a business perspective it’s virtually a no brainer to consolidate Lincoln with Ford dealerships and continue on the present path.

      I think you are right.  Ford will ride this pony until it no longer makes money or sense to do so.

  • avatar
    trollthattellsthetruth

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually most of Lexus models are RWD and unique to Lexus. In JDM they were known as unique Toyota models (like Hyundai Genesis e.g.). Lexus ES is well differentiated from Camry, you will never figure out that ES is based on Camry unless know about it before hand. With Lincoln – all models are based on Fords and even have the same body panels and cheap plastic bits in interior.

      Interestingly enough Lexus, Acura and Infiniti are all NA-only brand. They do not sell outside of US and JDM. So it is not necessarily to be a global luxury brand. NA, Russia, China are big enough markets to make profits from Lincoln. It is impossible to sell luxury cars in Europe  other than German brands. Italians and French tried and every time failed.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        @Inside Looking Out
         
        I would not say “most” are RWD/unique.  IS/GS/LS are RWD and unique, but the lion’s share of Lexus sales are ES (Camry) and RX (Highlander, actually just tall Camry) AFAIK, will have to look up numbers at work tomorrow when I can get to the Ward’s by-model data.  IIRC, GS sales are moribund (less than MKS even, shock horror) and I don’t think the IS has ever been a volume seller, but I may be mistaken.
         
        you are way lost on Lexus/Infiniti being US/JDM only brands.  Lexus has been on sale in Europe since 2005 and in lots of other global markets since then, having only sold in small numbers via import sales prior to that.  Infiniti is newer to Europe and not sold in Japan at all.  it is sold in 15+ countries.

      • 0 avatar

        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.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    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.

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