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Lincoln Dealers Are Told To Invest Or Go Away

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On: Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 9:30AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Lincoln Dealers Are Told To Invest Or Go Away

Ford has announced to Lincoln Dealers that they must all make a decision to either invest to keep up with new service standards, or to be one of the 200 or so franchises (out of 1,200 total) that Ford will let go.

"Dealers will decide," said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co.'s president of the Americas. “But the reality is that any dealer who does not agree to upgrades negotiated with Lincoln field staffers will get whatever severance compensation Lincoln offers.”

As part of a plan to improve Lincoln’s image and competitive edge, Ford is asking that Lincoln dealers meet new standards, which Ford says only about 25% of  all Lincoln dealers currently meet.

Currently Lincoln ranks very low on a list of 9 luxury brands for service, loyalty, residual value, and sales. Lincoln is the exception when it comes to Ford models that have gained popularity and earned high points for safety and reliability this year, but it was not always so for the Ford luxury brand. In 1998 Lincoln ranked as one of the top luxury cars in the U.S. with sales climbing over 187,000.

"Dealers know it's screwed up," said Bob Tasca Jr., a Rhode Island dealer and head of Lincoln's dealer council. "We are looking for a chance to change. It has to change, because the way it is isn't working."

Ford’s plan is to restore that image in the consumer’s eye by improving products and customer service and making financing much more attractive, and offer special services such as loaner cars and complimentary car washes. Lincoln will launch “seven new or remodeled vehicles in the next four years,” according to Fields.

"We are committed to Lincoln," Fields said at a media briefing following a meeting with 900 dealership personnel last week in Dearborn, Michigan. Among the highlights:
"Ford Motor Credit Corp. will be available to help Lincoln dealers invest" and Ford's captive lender also is creating an internal unit to cater to Lincoln customers seeking loans, said Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president for U.S. marketing sales and service.

A severance package will be offered to those dealers opting not to invest in their Lincoln franchises, but details have not yet been announced.
According to Czubay; “Lincoln has different standards for the 500 Lincoln dealers in 130 metro markets and for its 700 rural and small-city stores.”

Ford plans to visit with dealers onsite this year to discuss requirements and ensure compliance of dealerships with new proposed standards.


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