By on August 13, 2018

2018 Lincoln Navigator

The product pipeline is already in place, but what about the dealerships? That’s where Lincoln Motor Company’s focus now lies, as it begins rolling out a plan that will see standalone Lincoln dealerships pop up in 30 high-volume markets.

As the premium brand attempts to shuffle off sliding sales with a utility vehicle onslaught, the brand wants those high-rising vehicles shown off on well-lit runways encased in glass cubes. Lincoln calls this design “Vitrine.” It’s not just important to the brand — it’s “critical.”

That’s what Robert Parker, Lincoln’s director of marketing, sales and service, told Automotive News. The initiative targets 150 Lincoln dealers in 30 key markets, responsible for 70 percent of the brand’s sales.

Many dual Ford-Lincoln dealers, roughly half of the 150, didn’t wait for the go order, deciding to get a headstart on their own separate stores, but Lincoln wants to ensure those who haven’t already get with the program. Customer surveys reveal luxury buyers don’t like rubbing shoulders with lesser vehicles — and perhaps their buyers — while shopping.

Perish the thought…

Image: Ford

“Customers expect the environment to be equal to the product,” said Parker. “They want to buy a luxury product in a luxury environment.”

Lincoln’s plan is to incentivize the decision to go standalone. It hopes the remaining 78 dealers in those 30 markets decide by next July whether to get on board with Lincoln’s wishes, with the standalone stores up and running no later than July 2021. To do this, the automaker plans to hand over more cash for each vehicle sold, but there’ll also be a product element. Non-standalone Lincoln dealers won’t be allowed to sell glitzy, highly profitably Black Label models starting in the second quarter of next year, but only if they don’t sell them already.

Keeping a dual-store format means kissing those bonuses goodbye.

After coming back from near death, Lincoln’s U.S. sales fell 10.8 percent over the first seven months of 2018, with July providing its own 11-percent year-over-year drop. The only Lincoln vehicle with positive year-to-date growth is the Navigator, though the compact MKC saw a July increase.

Next year sees the (re)introduction of the Aviator nameplate, as well as the shedding of non-resonating alphanumeric model names. The MKX becomes the Nautilus, while the MKC appears ready to adopt the Corsair moniker when the second-generation model appears. Both models undergo Continental-esque grille swaps for 2019.

“The next phase of the transformation is critical,” said Parker. “This is probably the biggest two years in Lincoln’s history.”

[Images: Lincoln]

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79 Comments on “No Ford Buyers Allowed: To Seize the Future, Lincoln Needs Fancy Stores and Personal Space...”


  • avatar
    vvk

    I very much agree with this. Recently I was at a Ford dealer with my wife and even she commented how different the vibe was from what we are used to at BMW/Mercedes dealers. I notice it every time I am at a Ford dealer. You can cut the hostility with a knife.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      My experience buying a Lincoln was terrible. Not only was the sales process disorganized, when an issue came up, they blamed the Ford side—because I was shuffled over there to do F&I (which really only consisted of giving them my official information and handing them a bank draft).

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        I bought our Navi at a Lincoln standalone dealer and the whole thing was fantastic end-to-end. The Lincoln dealers even smell really good (they have their own custom scent pumped into the air).
        Since I bought CPO, I do all my service through the dealer also and that process is really smooth if you can schedule a loaner. Drop your keys, sign a paper, roll out in a MKC/MKX 5 min later. After years of the two-car drop off I will NEVER go back if I can avoid it.

        Now if only Lincoln could sponsor some gas stations; after a summer of road trips, I’m getting tired of trying to figure out just how nasty a particular gas station’s bathroom is!

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Same here. There’s one family where I live that owns pretty much all the local dealers; the actual stores are all along the main drag and divided into a Ford/Lincoln, a Hyundai/Subaru, a Dodge/Fiat, a standalone Honda they just bought, and an Audi/Kia/Volvo (!?).

      The Ford store is obviously the oldest one, and is a real boiler room with lots of desks, linoleum floors, and not so much hostility but sales guys who are obviously capital-C capital-S Car Salesmen. The pressure tactics aren’t there since the whole dealership is non-commission, and mostly no-BS on pricing, but that doesn’t seem to matter: The sales guys at the Ford/Lincoln and Hyundai/Subaru stores are super skeezy, even when they’re nice. They just all look exactly like car salesmen. If I obtained a shedload of cash and wanted a big honkin’ SUV, I’d be shopping the navigator, but man, it would be really strange to go talk about dropping a hundred large with someone who spends his whole day trying to sell stripper Escapes. I just didn’t like talking with them.

      On the other hand, the Kia/Volvo/Audi place is gorgeous, new, and the people act like they have careers rather than sentences. I don’t know how this occurs, whether when you apply at this dealer owner they look you up and down, rate you on a sleaze scale, and distribute you accordingly, but Kia isn’t a premium brand, yet the people at the Kia/Volvo/Audi store are really good. Same owners, same corp policies, same everything – but all other things being equal, it might be worth getting an XC90 Inscription instead of a Navigator just to avoid spending four damn hours in the Ford store.

      There’s no reason it NEEDS to be like this, but somehow it is, and until it’s not, Ford is probably right to try to keep it separated.

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        How in the world do Audi and Volvo allow Kias to be sold under the same roof?

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “How in the world do Audi and Volvo allow Kias to be sold under the same roof?”

          Some states have franchise laws that allow for this, to the dismay of automakers. I’ve even seen Ford/Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram franchises in the same building sharing the same lot.

          • 0 avatar
            bking12762

            I was just in Cedar Rapids, IA and there are 2 Ford-Chevy (under the same roof!) deals within 30 miles. That just aint natural.

          • 0 avatar
            TeamInstinct

            I live just south a ways from Cedar Rapids, can confirm, I’ve been to one of those Chevy/Ford dealers. In my hometown, also in Iowa, we had a Ford/Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealer! Back in the day they had Lincoln/Mercury in the same building.

        • 0 avatar
          PeriSoft

          “How in the world do Audi and Volvo allow Kias to be sold under the same roof?”

          I’m not sure, but aside from a couple of hamster standees that were there a few years back, the Kia people there are just as professional and ‘up-market’ as the Audi and Volvo people. It’s honestly a mystery: Do the HR people say, “Man, this place has glass walls and nice tile; better hire classy salespeople for Kia too”, or do they hire the same people the linoleum wasteland does but when they show up they say to themselves, “Glass walls and nice tile? I better get a nicer suit and stop using so much product in my hair!”?

          I don’t have any answers. If my business either gets acquired or goes under, maybe I’ll go get a job with that dealership and find out. I’ll either learn something about them, or something about me.

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Zaitcev

        I had a similar problem with a local Ford dealer too. It’s super strange how everyone there is selected or self-selected to look like a ripoff artist. I wanted to look at a Fiesta (Mark Baruth drives one of those, I heard), but fortunately the headroom was prohibitively small.

        On that topic, I talked once to someone who worked at a local Jeep dealer. We have 2, and for whatever reason one is much worse than the other. They just like to lie. My interlocutor claimed that we had 3 dealers previously, and the 3rd was a real dump. When it went out of business, the owner of the bad Jeep dealer hired a manager from the bankrupt 3rd dealer, and that manager brought onboard his old team. In a blink of an eye the 2nd dealer turned into a dump.

        Honestly, that Lincoln marketing guy sounds like he wants to cater to rich snobs and pander to class divide, but problems with unsavory personnel at Ford dealers might just be too widespread. They treat every customer like dirt, no matter how poor. Very egalitarian!

    • 0 avatar

      Our local Ford/Lincoln (in Livermore) dealership is very nice. It is modern and clean. When I bring my Fusion for service they are very friendly and provide shuttle service within 5 -10 minutes. Every visit they also wash my car as a courtesy. In general I have positive experience with Ford dealerships.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I would say the brand is focusing on the wrong thing, but now that Lincoln seems to have some cars with far more substance, making the brand experience unique does seem like a worthwhile investment.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree, very succinct and to the point.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Agreed. Audi’s North American operations are a good course to follow, starting with the B5 A4 in 1995. At that time, you still found a lot of Audi/VW dealers, and a lot of Audi/Porsche dealers. The dealers weren’t great – but it was the *product* that got people into the showrooms, and from that, Audi was able to make the justification for dealers to invest in the brands.

      It’s a tick-tock type relationship. Slowly but surely Audi of America got the dealers to clean up their acts because….profits. But it was the product, above all else.

      Same for Lincoln: build the product consumers want and they will come for something other than a $249/mo. lease offer.

      I think Lincoln is doing a better job of building a true American “luxury” brand image than Cadillac – who seems to have gotten lost along the way. The Navigator and the Escalade are baller, but the Navi really is targeting S-Class levels of plushness; The Escalade just seems a bit blingy and McMansion-y to me.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      As Paul Delorenzo has been pounding into his keyboard for decades,

      “It’s about the PRODUCT, STUPID” (not directed at you)

      When the product is good, grandiose marketing and repositioning efforts become warranted.

      The real question now becomes will this new venture generate enouhg profit to subsidise the sinking Ford ship? Seems like every Ford vehicle without a pickup bed can be bought new 5 figures under MSRP.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    “Customer surveys reveal luxury buyers don’t like rubbing shoulders with lesser vehicles — and perhaps their buyers — while shopping.”

    Are Platinum Fords a “lesser” vehicle than the equivalent Lincoln? Is the buyer of a $75,000 Ford F-150 the “lesser” of the $50,000 Lincoln shopper? Doesn’t the Ford brand already sell a far greater number of over $50,000 sticker vehicles than Lincoln in the US? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      True. I would hope that they would step-up their game if you are buying a Platinum or King Ranch over a base Fiesta.

      Every customer deserves to be treated well but it just stands to reason that even subconsciously the buyer of the more costly item would get a little bit better treatment.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      So, you think there should be stand alone dealers for high-trim F-150s?

      The F-150 shopper is not the Continental or Navigator shopper. The F-150 isn’t seen as a luxury vehicle, even though some versions are.

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        In GM parlance such dealerships are called GMC dealers, which apparently are one of the biggest profit centers of the company.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Since you brought up GMC…

          I’m irritated that GMC is somehow supposed to be a step up from Chevy (although it’s all in the mind of the buyer) but GMC has the same warranty as Chevy.

          Meanwhile Buick has a longer warranty than Chevy or GMC. How does that make any sense?

          If GMC is “professional grade” and being sold in the same dealership as Buick – give ’em the same warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        The $80K F-150 driver is the kind of person with a 7 figure net worth who balks at the notion of being called “rich”.

        The $50K Lincoln driver…. I’ll leave that alone as my wife drives one lol.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      I mean, sure, but a base Land Cruiser will run you $85k and nobody sees that as an argument to sell Lexus out of the same dealerships as a Corolla. You have to draw the line somewhere, and brand differentiation is usually what does it.

  • avatar
    MBella

    This shows how the lack of future planning is having a negative impact on most companies. Everything is about the next quarter only. How much money is it going to take to establish a Lincoln dealer network? It should never have been eliminated in the first place. This is the same thinking that took them away from cars.

  • avatar
    Ryan

    From a dealer standpoint. I do not believe the Lincoln brand is worth the investment. I feel that Ford does not need a luxury brand. The top of the line trim levels from the Blue Oval are outstanding. I hope they (Ford) concentrate efforts on the core brand.

    I think the same of Acura. Honda doesn’t need the headache.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “I think the same of Acura. Honda doesn’t need the headache”

      What Honda product is competitive in the luxury field? When I hear people claim there is too much market overlap between Acura and high-trim Hondas, they’re usually arguing that Acura has slipped to semi-premium status, not that Honda has risen to luxury.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      The potential of a luxury brand is too big to ignore -Lincoln could theoretically have bigger profits (in absolute terms) than ford vehicles, at 10% of the volume.

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        I would bet serious money that Ford makes much higher per-unit profits on the F-150 and Platinum versions of their other Ford models than they make on any current Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, but they make more money on Lincolns and Acuras. How about that? Thats the only reason to have luxury brand – profit margin.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Some are already standalone stores (ones that lost Mercury), like David McDavid Lincoln here in Plano (TX).

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    One of these being built NE quadrant of Indianapolis metro area.
    I was surprised to see the Lincoln sign in front.
    Wonder if they will be a survivor?

  • avatar
    gasser

    This dealership problem has arisen because dealerships are an anachronism in our era. Today, we can inform ourselves via on line research, and obtain financing on line. The dealer stockpiles vehicles which may, or may not, fit our wants. In my view, the dealer is a hurdle to overcome, in the purchase process. I don’t mind mixing with other owners who may have spent more or less than I did. I can buy my own latte and croissant myself, thanks anyway. The issue of service can be easily divorced from the sales location, and again speed and price are more important than free food and drinks. Perhaps my view is influenced by growing up in an era that began with grease pits, not even car lifts.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      I pretty much agree with your view personally.
      But I also thought real estate agents were gonna be gone for most residential transactions, and that’s not happening either.
      I just think there’s a psychology component to high dollar transactions that keeps the salesperson alive (and collecting commissions).

      For my situation where I’m basically trading lease cars every two years, it could (should?) be done with almost zero human interaction.

      • 0 avatar
        baconator

        Car dealerships and real estate agents exist in their current form only because state laws were written by their lobbyists. True for both industries. I don’t think this will change anytime in the next 10-20 years, but as someone who trades both cars and real estate in non-agent-assisted transactions, I’d be delighted if I were wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr.Nick

      The last time I checked, the overwhelming majority of car buyers buy what’s on a lot, don’t buy the car with options they might want from a distant dealer and certainly don’t order from the factory.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        They do only because there’s no point to special-ordering from the factory anymore now that the manufacturers have eliminated nearly all optional equipment in favor of a very small number of prepackaged “trim levels” in a small selection of colors (especially for the interior). If we still could choose from a 40-item optional equipment list, 20 exterior colors, and 5 interior colors (each in your choice of vinyl, cloth, or leather), there would be plenty of factory orders. The manufacturers and the dealers don’t want that.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    You still need a quality product to get people into the stores.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      My neighbor was getting a new F-250 diesel and big Caddy sedan every couple years (apparently running a BHPH lot is pretty profitable). This time he switched to a Lincoln because his wife (late 60s) liked the body style. Will be interesting to see if he stays with the brand.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      That is the problem for Lincoln and Acura – most people just don’t think the “upscale” brand is of higher quality than the equivalent Ford or Honda. Ford’s “problem” is that the Platinum versions of Ford vehicles have risen to at least Lincoln level or above in terms of perceived quality, while Honda’s problem is that Acura vehicles have slipped in perceived quality to offering little perceived advantages over the equivalent Honda. I don’t think an upgraded Lincoln dealership experience is going to shift that perception, because Acura already has separate dealerships and they don’t seem to get much bump from it.

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        I would posit that “most people” probably don’t even understand the Ford-Lincoln and Honda-Acura relationships. That said, I think Lincoln is now doing a better job than ever of differentiating itself from Ford. As nice as an Expedition Platinum might be, the new Navigator is really something else. Once MKZ and MKS are dead, I think Lincoln has a bright future.

        As for Acura, the lineup is dull and uninspiring relative to the competition. Like Lincoln, the brand lacks cachet, but there’s not even hope to improve that standing given the lack of product.

  • avatar
    clay433

    A waste of money. Would be better of putting money on the product or just killing the brand

    • 0 avatar
      bking12762

      +1 Clay. My family owned a Lincoln-Mercury store in the 70’s and 80’s and they were a dead brand walking then. I’ve seen very little reason to continue the suffering. Their clientele is not big enough to justify the brand any longer. and its too bad too because they were fairly popular brands at one time. We regularly outsold the local Ford dealer (pre truck-suv-cuv time period).

  • avatar
    stuki

    +1

    Whenever you have laws and regulations written around facilitating and perpetuating some arbitrary way of doing business that may have made sense at a certain point in time, all you do is create pointless friction next week. Like employer provided health “insurance.” And car dealer franchise laws.

    Flexibility for all to route around what they perceive as inefficiencies, without always having to kowtow to special interests from a bygone era, is what makes the world move forward.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Good idea. You don’t want Lincoln customers to glance inside the Explorer on the showroom floor and notice how similar the interior design/materials are to the Lincoln version.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      That’s probably it more than anything. Really makes the case to shut the tril level that is Lincoln down.

    • 0 avatar
      Carroll Prescott

      Obviously you haven’t paid much attention lately. Lincoln interiors on the NEW rollouts are quite different from any Ford. The problem is the NEW Lincolns aren’t hitting the dealerships quick enough.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    The focus on dealership experience is a distraction when the cars/SUVs aren’t class leading.

    Free donuts and coffee and nice tile isn’t why the Lexus dealership experience is good.

    Know thyself, Lincoln.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Something certainly needs to be done. Around here the majority of the Ford dealers who have a Lincoln franchise treat them like a redheaded step child. Their radio and TV ads say come down to __________ Ford with no mention of Lincoln in their name. The Oval on the building and out front is HUGE, while the Star is small and often stuck on the old used cars pole and if it is on the building at all it is often not noticeable from the street.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again the reason to keep Mercury around was to be able to keep Lincoln around.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Very tangentially related to the topic at hand, but I just spent the weekend driving 9 hours and back to Charlotte NC for a wedding, and was given a free upgrade to an Edge Titanium AWD (2.0 Ecoboost). I was highly impressed with the car in all regards, it felt like a more affordable version of my parents’ RX350. Very quiet and smooth riding, highly competent handling, nice interior materials, super comfy leather seats. The 2.0T wasn’t quite up to par with that 1GR-Fe reference point, but when you get it in the sweet spot on the low end that 275lb-ft feels very nice indeed. I got a hand-calculated 25mpg driving at 75mph-78mph most of the way. The one short coming was fit and finish both inside and out. 5(?) years into this generation the fit on exterior trim and panels is still pretty out of wack, and on the inside some of those beautiful looking/feeling soft trim pieces had very obvious uneven gaps in the most visible part of the center stack. Nonetheless the good outweighs the bad in a big way, I’d say it was one of my favorite long-drive rentals I’ve had.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      gtem – whether you intended it or not, you just explained why Lincoln doesn’t work. The Lincoln version of the Edge Titanium (whatever the hell they call it) will have the same engine, the same gearbox, likely the same leather seats, and since I assume it is built in the same factory, the same sorry fit and finish. Other than a personal preference for styling differences, the only significant tangible difference between a Lincoln and Ford is a 1 year longer warranty on the Lincoln.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I think the MKC has the larger 2.3L Ecoboost as the base motor(?) I’d be curious to try it out actually. The 2.0T felt plenty potent at like 50% acceleration, but lay on it merging onto the highway and the power deficit compared to a V6 is noticeable in the upper-mid range. In my mind an Edge Titanium with the Sport’s 2.7L V6TT but without the obnoxiously huge rims and stiffer suspension sounds like an awesome combination for real world use.

      • 0 avatar

        Titanium does not have leather. It is leatherette. And plastic part quality is higher than in base model but still is not on par to luxury makes. I have Fusion Titanium and cross shopped it with luxury makes. A good value though.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No the Lincoln versions do not have the same leather seats as in the Titanium Fords and yes Titanium Fords all the way down to the Fiesta have real leather on the interior. As typical it is “partial leather” ie just the seating surfaces as well as leather wrapped steering wheel. The Lincoln leather is much softer than the Ford leather.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    More imbecilism.

    This has been tried before and has failed.

    Jim Hackett and Jim Farley are my new #1 duo on biggest idiot auto execs; they are going to decimate FoMoCo so that a much larger % of past owners will MoFo FoMoCo, and the 99.9999999% that doesn’t know Lincoln even exists or associate it with sort of prestige as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche or Range Rover will keep on ignoring Lincoln, which means that –

    The 10 to 30 million dollars to build out these new free-standing Lincoln dealerships will be a giant black hole for franchisee $$$ (they will absolutely curse the day they committed to this next-level type of stupidity).

    They are doing this when construction materials and labor costs are at all time high, and commercial land has breached highs of previous bubble in 2007.

    It’s bad enough that Lincoln does not command prestige to require standalone dealerships, but it’s suicide to demand it given the cost to franchisees (especially since there’s a great chance that we’re very close to another significant downturn in an already saturated market).

    It’s a suicide mission by the morons and Ford, reminiscent of the Nasser-era Premier Auto Group debacle that now lives in automotive historical infamy.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Edit

      1) “The 10 to 30 million dollars to build out these new free-standing Lincoln dealerships will be a giant black hole for franchisee $$$ (they will absolutely curse the day they committed to this next-level type of stupidity).” – Should have written “10 to 15 million dollars” per free standing, new dealership, based on current land costs, construction materials cost, and labor costs (again, all time high, almost certainly headed for stereo decline post-next correct – GREAT time to invest in physical structures /save).

      2) “…that doesn’t know Lincoln even exists or associate it with sort of prestige as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche or Range Rover will keep on ignoring Lincoln…”

      -‘should have included Lexus as brand that warrants free-standing dealership; largest Lexus dealership of truly luxurious scale and content is being built in Miami now at cost of 85 million dollars.

      3) How’d Project Pinnacle at Cadillac work out? BOOM! HEAD SHOT AND DOUBLE TAP!

    • 0 avatar

      There is a reason Ford’s stock is in the single digits.

      What a disgrace!!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Why is it ok for the Navi to have a conventional roofline but the Avi does not? Can we at least be a little consistent?

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I wonder what this means for my local Ford dealer, who is building a big new building behind their current location, which will then be razed. When ground broke, it was announced they were going to pick up Lincoln (which we haven’t had locally since 2009 when the other Ford dealership went out of business). I only see one large building going up, not two, but I suppose you could divide the building.

    This area easily has enough money and population to support a Lincoln dealership, and in fact it’s hard to get a plain jane F150 at this particular dealer as they stock and move so many high end models.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Those Lincolns at the top of the page are the best looking Lincolns since the early 60s Continentals… Just sayin’

  • avatar

    Lincoln should be building funeral homes instead of dealerships. Musk is right Ford is a morgue. The Hatchet man is steering Ford into the iceberg.


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