Glass Houses: Lincoln's Standalone Showroom Plan Is Back On
Following months of negotiations and tweaks, a temporarily shelved plan aimed at boosting the standing of the Lincoln brand is back on.
While Ford hopes to turbocharge Lincoln sales by compelling dealers to build standalone showrooms for the brand, the automaker’s Lincoln Commitment Program went back to the drawing board late last year after backlash from nervous dealers and a California dealers association. Now, Ford’s effort to make Lincoln customers feel special looks a little different.
The sticking points came down to showroom size and margins. According to Automotive News, alterations to the plan saw margin gap between complying and non-complying dealers fall by 20 percent. Via a dealer memo, the plan now allows dealers to earn a 2.75 percent margin on new cars sold, down from the 3.5 percent opposed by the California New Car Dealers Association. Also new is the ability for participating dealers outside 30 targeted markets to earn those bonuses.
Dealers who wish to join the program must pay a $20,000 fee that’s repaid following the construction of the separate showroom. That construction target date is now pushed back a year, to July 2022. Dealers have until January to sign up.
As for the showrooms, Ford has a motif in mind — “Vitrine,” a French word meaning glass display case. The automakers hopes floor-to-ceiling glass and bright illumination draws customers to its growing line of revamped vehicles like moths to a podiatrist’s office. Participating dealers can choose between a two-vehicle boutique or a showroom hosting four to six vehicles, the memo stated, neither of which will be cheap.
Already, 72 standalone Lincoln stores exist in the U.S.; those locales opened before Ford announced the new program. Since then, six Ford stores have carved out separate space for the Lincoln brand, with 10 more coming online in the next year.
Lincoln’s stalled comeback received a shot in the arm from the revamped Navigator, which earned boffo sales compared to its aging predecessor when it came on the scene a couple of years ago. With a brand-wide restyle now complete, boosting the visibility of the brand is top of mind. The reborn Aviator, currently basking in the glow of accolades received during a recent first drive event, should arrive at dealers imminently, with the MKC-replacement Corsair showing up early next year.
Lincoln sales rose 1.3 percent in the U.S. in the first half of 2019.
[Image: Lincoln Motor Company]
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