Lincoln Is Movin' On Up, And Ford Looks For Dealer Commitment

October 6, 2010
2011 Lincoln MKX

2011 Lincoln MKX

Ford Motor Co. [NYSE:F] is planning to consolidate its Lincoln dealerships, and asking those that stay with the brand to upgrade.

Earlier this week, at a gathering of Lincoln dealers at the company's headquarters, details for the plan were announced. Although they remain secret, the automaker confirmed that it will likely lose some of its Lincoln dealerships.

Some sources—including the LA Times—have reported that Ford plans to eliminate about 175 dealerships—nearly 15 percent—of current Lincoln dealerships.

Dealers will have one of three options. If now with the discontinuation of Mercury they're currently selling only Lincoln, they'll need to invest in expanded facilities, or choose to make an exit. Otherwise, if they currently sell Lincoln and Ford, they can opt to keep their facility as-is and continue selling Ford but not Lincoln.

Company spokesman Christian Bokich said that about 88 percent of Lincoln vehicles are sold in the country's 130 largest markets, and the brand intends to focus on those markets.

That likely means larger, more consistently styled showrooms, with a level of service that's on par with Lexus, Audi, or Mercedes-Benz dealerships. Currently, some Lincoln dealerships are too small or outdated, or combined with higher-volume Ford dealerships.

Lincoln plans to introduce seven new products over the next four years, with the first of those, the 2011 Lincoln MKX, already reaching dealerships.

"Lincoln is going to become a world-class brand" that will take on the best from Japan and Europe as well as Cadillac, said Bokich, so the company is telling its dealers that they have to move in a new direction.

"We don't have a target list," said Bokich, who explained that it's a matter of who's willing to follow the brand upmarket. "At the end of the day, dealers need to make a choice whether they're willing to invest in the brand."

Dealers will be meeting with factory reps in the next several months, and any decisions are to be made in the first half of 2011.

[LA Times; Ford Motor Co]

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