Mercury’s expiration date means survival crisis for Lincoln dealers

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Owners of just over 250 stand-alone Lincoln-Mercury stores are waiting and wondering what Oct. 4 will bring. That’s when Ford Motor Co. will update dealers on the future of the Lincoln brand. Ford is killing off the Mercury brand and will phase out production this year.

The sad truth for many of those stand-alone dealers is that their days are numbered. Without the volume that Mercury brings to the enterprise, a free-standing store selling Lincoln vehicles alone is just not economically viable in most markets. Many dealers acknowledge that reality, but some remain hopeful that new Lincoln products or revived marketing can save the day.

Ford executives know that the prospects for free-standing Lincoln stores are not good.

They are encouraging Ford and Lincoln dealers to buy each other out to establish more Ford-Lincoln dealerships. It’s a continuation of a years-long dealership consolidation program that already has significantly slashed the number of stand-alone Lincoln-Mercury stores in this country.

The situation has some dealers scrambling to look for other brands to pair with Lincoln in their existing locations. Would Chrysler allow a Fiat showroom next door to Lincoln? I’ve heard that idea floated from the retail front. And I wonder what Ford would think of that.

You can reach Amy Wilson at awilson@crain.com.

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