Matt VanDyke is global director of marketing, sales and service for Lincoln, which recently said it would do additional quality inspections of the 2013 MKZ sedan at Ford Motor Co.'s Flat Rock, Mich., plant to help out the Hermosillo, Mexico, plant where the car is built. Lincoln is more than two months behind in delivering the MKZ.
He spoke to Staff Reporter Bradford Wernle about the MKZ and other topics.
Where does Lincoln stand on catching up with dealer deliveries of the MKZ?
This month we're shipping at increased levels. We will talk to the dealers Sunday at the make meeting about the status of that. We expect that we'll have about 2,500 MKZ deliveries this month, and then in March it will continue to improve from there. We've got really good progress in the last couple of weeks.
Some dealers have wondered about how the additional Flat Rock inspections came about. How did Lincoln not see a potential bottleneck coming at Hermosillo since you were also launching the Ford Fusion there at the same time?
Obviously Hermosillo has an incredible six months of activity with two all-new products getting launched. Historically it has been a fantastic plant for its quality performance. We had lots of activity at once going through the system and our commitments on Ford quality and to even higher levels on Lincoln have led us to put increased scrutiny in place. The most important thing is getting the quality just right. As we identified challenges, we put the brakes on and moderated the pace of shipments so we can get caught up and get things just right.
How long will the Flat Rock inspections go on?
Our plan right now is for the next five weeks.
That's for everything other than the states in the southwest?
We've got five states, just based on simple logistics, that we're letting Hermosillo do the full inspection process on. But Flat Rock is taking a significant amount of the volume to cover the rest of the country.
You're inspecting each and every car, not just every fifth car or so?
Each and every car.
Was that the plan from the beginning?
The plan from the beginning was to have a new level of scrutiny and inspection. We implemented a new facility and new people and processes: a Luxury Verification Center in Hermosillo for Lincoln. What we found is we really couldn't ramp it up fast enough. Flat Rock has the capacity and capability to provide support while we get it ramped up to full speed and performance. We didn't anticipate having to use Flat Rock, but we're glad we are.
Dealers have said they have a hard time tracking when their presold cars will arrive, especially since there have been repeated delays. How are you addressing that?
We're working on giving the dealers as much information as possible about the status of their cars. They don't want us necessarily communicating with customers directly. They need to be the ones who own the point of customer engagement. For them to do that successfully, they obviously require really good information from us. When you make adjustments to the process and you do things like shipping through Flat Rock, it changes the way to provide standard communication on exactly where vehicles are on shipping and ramps and things like that. We've had a lot of dialogue with our dealers this week on some ad hoc things we can do to improve that information flow.
What are you doing to compensate customers who put in advance orders?
We have about 1,000 presold orders. We're working with our dealers on a couple of things for them. No. 1 we're thanking them for their patience by giving them a date night: a $100 gift certificate for dinner on us. And as you know the Lincoln Makers program has been another great tool Lincoln dealers have been able to use to thank our earliest adopters, so we're continuing to extend the use of that tool for our dealers and customers. Lincoln Makers is a personal luxury experience where you get the sunglasses or the weekend trip or the small-batch whiskey kit that you can create and make, as an example.
You've announced actions to bolster your certified used-vehicle program. How is that going?
The CPO program is off to a great start. We're focused retention of those off-lease vehicles within the Lincoln network. We launched the new program on Jan. 14 and so we only have about three week's worth of data, but we've seen immediately within three weeks a more than nine point lift in retention based on our auction data.
When does the Lincoln Dealer Academy launch?
We had the pilot last fall. Now that ramps up at the end of this quarter and into the spring.