Dealers 'chomping at the bit' for delayed MKZ
Construction crews at Wallace Lincoln in Fort Pierce, Fla., rushed to complete a $2 million dealership renovation by mid-November to have it ready when the redesigned 2013 MKZ arrived. Owner Bill Wallace says he has a list of at least 25 "active prospects," and he's eager to host a party to show off the showroom and the car.
But now it's mid-January, and Wallace still hasn't seen any MKZs.
"The first week in November, that was our original day. Then it was Thanksgiving. Then December, then 17th of January. It's a full two months past due," said Wallace. "Everybody is real anxious. It's exacerbated by the fact this is the third or fourth time they've pushed the date back."
For Wallace and other Lincoln dealers, the MKZ cannot arrive soon enough. Lincoln has touted the sleek new sedan as the first of a new generation of Lincolns that will reinvigorate the faded brand, conquest a new generation of customers and transform Lincoln stores into profit centers.
Lincoln's U.S. sales fell 4 percent last year, well below the overall market rise of 13 percent.
Matt VanDyke, director of global Lincoln marketing, sales and service, understands how eager the dealers are to see the new MKZ and says Ford Motor Co. has begun shipping the car from a plant in Mexico. Asked if the vehicles are late, he responded: "Our ramping up is on plan.
"We're being extremely careful about quality verification," he said. "Dealers are chomping at the bit" because the December sell-down went "extremely well" and there are fewer than 1,000 2012 Lincoln MKZs remaining in dealer stocks.
"By the end of the quarter, we expect stocks to be replenished," he said.
Bill Knight, owner of Bill Knight Lincoln in Tulsa, Okla., and chairman of the Lincoln National Dealer Council, says the car is about a month later than dealers expected.
"We thought we were going to get it in December and aren't getting it. We're disappointed. But on the other side, we would rather be late than launch it with a problem. Emotionally it's disappointing, but pragmatically it's OK," Knight says.
Bob Tasca Jr., owner of Tasca Ford-Lincoln in Cranston, R.I., says, "We thought we would have had the MKZ on the ground by now. Production has been very slow. I guess they really paid attention to quality."
Wallace says he paid contractors time and a half to get his store done in November in line with Lincoln Trustmark Design standards, hoping to be ready for the arrival of snowbirds for the Florida winter.
"All of us have gone to so much trouble and expense to consolidate these retail outlets," he says. "We pushed very, very hard to get this building done. It's completed and it's gorgeous. We thought we would be rocking and rolling by now."
You can reach Bradford Wernle at email@example.com.