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Lincoln dealers to build standalone dealerships separate from Ford

Autoblog logo Autoblog 8/14/2018 Jonathon Ramsey

a large room© Provided by AOL Inc.

Way back in 2011, Ford Motor Credit Co. established Lincoln Automotive Financial Services as part of what Automotive News called "a campaign to set the Lincoln brand apart." Lincoln's been on a wild, public ride in the seven years since, which included a near-death experience in 2013 under former Ford CEO Alan Mulally. But Ford's luxury brand has rebounded and is ready to take another shot at setting itself apart. Automaker execs have asked dealers with twinned Ford-Lincoln dealerships in 30 major U.S. markets to build standalone stores.

According to company data, the move isn't a gamble—dealers with standalone showrooms sell more vehicles. Lincoln's standalone dealerships in the 30 major U.S. markets that account for 70 percent of luxury segment sales increased 48 percent from 2014 to 2017, compared to an overall Lincoln brand sales increase of 18 percent. After a former Ford-Lincoln dealer in Minneapolis opened a devoted Lincoln store this January, sales have climbed 60 percent so far this year. Dealers in Orange County, California, and Atlanta, Georgia have seen sales double since opening exclusive Lincoln storefronts. The sales manager at the Atlanta dealer said, "Customers have pulled up and said, 'This is how it should be.'"

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Robert Parker, Lincoln's head of marketing, said, "Customers expect the environment to be equal to the product. They want to buy a luxury product in a luxury environment." That issue repeatedly comes up when a mass-market brand launches a luxury product; observers have lately wondered how much the issue affects sales of Hyundai's Genesis brand.

Out of 845 Lincoln showrooms nationwide, there are 150 Lincoln dealers in those 30 major U.S. markets. So far, 72 dealers have made or are working to make the standalone switch on their own. Lincoln is asking the remaining 78 shops to follow suit, to agree to a new facility by July 2019 and to have the store finished by July 2021. Only the showrooms would need to be exclusive, service and other back-end departments can remain in Ford-branded complexes. Wielding the carrot, Lincoln will help dealers with relocating, and pay more for every car sold. Wielding the stick, Lincoln said that come Q2 2019, it won't let twinned dealers sell Black Label trims if they don't already.

Over the next couple of years, Lincoln will complete the revamp of its lineup. Said marketing honco Parker, "The next phase of the transformation is critical. This is probably the biggest two years in Lincoln's history."

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