Despite Ford's commitment to the Lincoln marque, dealers are reportedly hesitant to commit extra funds to upgrade their stores before the arrival of new product.
We've heard the news on the looming Lincoln product wave, but the fact remains that dealers still don't have the physical sheetmetal to attract prospective customers. Volatile cash flow lends to uncertainty and some dealers are aiming to simply stay the course for the time being. Parent Ford is asking some dealers to commit over $1 million to remodel and upgrade showrooms in anticipation of its new vehicles.
"I say show me the money," said Larry Taylor, owner of Beau Townsend Ford-Lincoln Mercury of Vandalia, Ohio. "They told us there would be no new products for about 24 months. I don't know how the stand-alone Lincoln dealers are going to make it, especially those dealers who have to spend $2 million on their upgrades."
The corporate-dealer scuffles have inevitably led to a stalemate between the respective parties. Lincoln spokesperson Christian Bokich told Automotive News that "status quo is not an option," indicating dealers must eventually conform to new, unspecified quality standards for stores and customer service. The alternative is to negotiate a franchise buyout or receive less incentive funding, the former option being a perfect part of Ford's plan to drop at least 200 of its 1200 vendors in hope of developing more profitable dealerships. Lincoln dealers reportedly have until the end of this year to decide and Fall 2011 to perform the upgrades.
"My facility is in excellent shape," said an unnamed dealer. "I plan on doing nothing here but selling Lincolns -- unless Ford comes up with a lot more money."
Before the lineup changes take effect, however, Ford has an outline for Lincoln to assert itself in the premium market niche. All Lincoln vehicles will come with a complimentary maintenance plan for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. Starting 2011, customers will be presented with a host of privileges, including Lincoln loaners for warranty work, upgraded roadside assistance, a Lincoln-specific customer service team, and a free wash and detail with every service.
The future Lincoln line is supposed to be led by seven all-new or updated vehicles rolled out over the next four years. The models include a revised MKT acting as the new-age Town Car, a larger MKZ with a more distinct appearance to separate it from the Fusion, and a small car. Ford recently relayed to dealers that it would take two years to rebuild the Lincoln brand and four years to land it on customer consideration lists.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)