Ford's timeline for Lincoln dealers to make their decision

Ford Motor Co.'s plans for Lincoln have sparked some confusion.

The message to dealers is still clear: Spend lots of money to improve facilities and customer service … or get out.

But just when are dealers supposed to make that important business decision?

I did some digging.

Ford isn't providing a definite time frame for reaching its goal of cutting 200 or so Lincoln dealerships in major metro markets. But the automaker has said it expects to meet individually with all Lincoln dealers at least once before Dec. 31 and again by the end of January.

The next seven to eleven weeks are an “informational period,” my source says. That means Ford will outline its expectations for improved facilities and customer service at those individual dealer meetings. If the dealers choose not to meet Ford's demands, the dealers will get more information -- specifically, cash compensation Ford will pay them to give up the franchise.

So that means that early next year Lincoln dealers should start preparing to make a serious business decision. Ford hopes to have most dealers' decisions in hand by midyear, my source says.

That might clear up some timeline confusion.

But for some 1,200 U.S. Lincoln dealerships, it probably doesn't bring them any closer to a conclusion.