Lincoln goes big-city
85% of stock will go to top markets; small dealers feel squeezed
Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president of U.S. vehicle sales, on Lincoln's metro focus: "That's where the luxury market is."
LOS ANGELES -- Lincoln dealerships in large metro markets will get the vast majority of Lincoln production, which is unnerving small-town dealers.
About 85 percent of Lincoln's inventory will be allocated to dealers in the top 130 U.S. markets, said Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president of U.S. vehicle sales, service and marketing.
The allocation to big markets, higher than their current share, is part of Lincoln's plan to trim its dealership roster and prod dealers to invest in operations and improve customer service.
The new allocation is expected next year, for the 2012 model year at the latest.
One rural Lincoln dealer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said executives "told us 88 percent of all Lincoln production will go to the dealers in the top 130 markets, and 12 percent goes to the rural markets. So if 500 of us stick around, 12 percent of that production won't feed us.
"We're worried if we choose to stay, we won't be able to get any Lincoln products."
About half of Lincoln's 1,200 dealerships are in small markets, said Lincoln spokesman Christian Bokich.
Czubay said at the Los Angeles Auto Show that Ford is working with small dealers to help them decide if they can afford to stay in business.
"The reason all of the competitors concentrate their business on the top 130 markets is because that's where the luxury market is," he said.
Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, said: "There will be some flexibility, but clearly what we discussed with the dealers is that when you look at the top 130 markets, that's where the luxury business is. So it's very important for us to have production for those markets so they are able to participate from a market share standpoint."
Lincoln wants to trim about 200 stores in the top 130 markets to improve per-store sales. It will seek to close stores in other markets, too.
Lincoln sold 70,120 vehicles this year through October, up 6 percent from the 2009 period. Lexus, by comparison, sold 183,529 vehicles through October, up 9 percent.
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