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