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In a Push to Improve Buyers Perception of Lincoln, 200 Dealerships Will be Closed

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On: Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 9:32AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


In a Push to Improve Buyers Perception of Lincoln, 200 Dealerships Will be Closed

Ford Motor Company has recently announced that it will eliminate at least 200 Lincoln franchise dealerships (which is 40% of its Lincoln dealers in major metropolitan regions) in an attempt to magnify the exclusivity of its last remaining luxury brand. Of the remaining Lincoln dealerships, many upgrades will be required in order to "raise Lincoln's game in terms of customer experience to the level of such luxury brands as Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW," according to Automotive News.com.

The marketing ploy is being created in order to keep up with Ford’s competitors in the luxury car market and those who are saying that Lincoln does not stack up to its competitors.

Many sources report that Ford will announce its new marketing plan for Lincoln in an upcoming 2-day Lincoln dealer seminar that will begin on October 4th and takes place in the car capitol of the U.S., Dearborn Michigan.

According to Ford executives, the discontinuation of the Mercury brand was the impetus for the new plan to give Lincoln a makeover. But in the bigger metro areas where the market is much larger, some stand-alone Lincoln dealerships would still be allowed to stay opened, while in the smaller rural markets the Lincoln products would be sold only at Ford dealerships. Ford Motor Company at one time owned the following luxury brands: Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover, and even Volvo. Ford has sold them off, one by one, over the past several years. Now that Ford has only one remaining luxury brand left, the Detroit automaker plans to design a “premium showroom experience for its final premium brand."

12 years ago Lincoln was the top-selling luxury brand in the United States, posting sales of up to 187,000 units. Last year only a little over 82,000 units were sold domestically, which put Lincoln 7th on the list behind Lexus and other imported luxury brands such as BMW and Mercedes.

The average number of sales per dealership for Lincoln last year was only 67 compared to Lexus’ numbers at 947.

The strategy to boost Lincoln sales involves an investment in the dealerships which will include improved standards for the stores and a higher level of customer service, which according to sources interviewed, may prompt some Lincoln dealers to jump ship. Ford will offer a buy-out package in some situations. The strategy that Ford initially had when killing off the Mercury brand was to free up more revenue that could be invested in improving the buyers’ perception of the Lincoln brand.

The upcoming Lincoln dealer meeting will, according to a Ford spokesperson; focus on "the luxury customer experience."

"The future direction of the Lincoln ownership experience has been charted on a joint basis between Ford Motor and select dealer representatives," spokesman Christian Bokich stated. "It is important that Lincoln dealers are the first to hear about this information from the company."

One Lincoln dealer who reports that he was familiar with the advisory group that worked on the future marketing plan for Lincoln said Ford did not reveal its intention of eliminating 200 franchises. "That's an aggressive plan," said the Lincoln dealer who asked not to be identified.

"We're going to make a major investment in Lincoln over the next four years with seven new or significantly refreshed products," Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, said last week.

Ford plans to add some exciting new models to its line-up of luxury cars, beginning with a Luxury compact, FWD crossover to the Lincoln brand, and perhaps even a car with FWD as well. There is also talk that a car based on the European Ford Mondeo could be added. New features Ford plans to integrate into future Lincolns are standards such as active noise cancellation and adaptive suspensions.









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