Distressed Dealers Convince Lincoln to Postpone Standalone Stores

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This time last year, Lincoln was busy promoting its Experience Centers — storefronts that promote the brand and its products, but don’t serve as active dealerships. Then, in August, it asked around 80 Ford/Lincoln dealerships to commit to building separate Lincoln-only facilities by July. It was an attempt to elevate the premium brand by making it appear more exclusive, akin to what Cadillac attempted with Project Pinnacle and what Hyundai Group wants to achieve with Genesis.

Unfortunately, all of these programs garnered a “mixed response” from dealers. Many complained that the cost of building a separate showroom for higher-end models is prohibitively expensive. That has also been the case with Lincoln. The California New Car Dealers Association even wrote Ford Motor Co. last month, asking it not to punish storefronts that fail to divide their facilities, and it looks as though the automaker has acquiesced. 

Lincoln previously told dealers that if they fail to to split Ford and Lincoln dealerships, going so far as to give them separate names and ensuring the premium store had floor-to-ceiling glass walls, they won’t receive a co-op reimbursement from the factory — which works out to about $100,000 a year for each dealership. While some stores complied, claiming they saw an uptick in sales, others feel the automaker is asking for too much.

According to Automotive News, Lincoln communicated its changes to the program in a memo to dealerships earlier this week. While it still harped on the importance of creating a “distinctive luxury experience,” the automaker acknowledged the need to “work with our dealer partners to better understand their questions and concerns and determine the right path forward.”

Greg Wood, Lincoln’s sales and service manager, told the outlet that the company will likely relaunch the program after the necessary changes are made. “We’ve been notified from a number of various dealers around the country that speak candidly and directly with us on some of their concerns,” Wood said. “We just want to take some time to listen to all our partners.”

Hopefully that won’t take too long. The brand may have recovered slightly from its post-recession decline, but 2018 is shaping up to be a weak year and our readership is clamoring for a Lincoln Death Watch series.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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