A Lincoln-Mercury dealer in Pennsylvania has filed suit to win the right to sell the 1998 Navigator sport-utility.
Frank Dellaria, owner of Jim Dellaria Ford Lincoln-Mercury in Burgettstown, Pa., wants the court to order Lincoln-Mercury to supply the dealership with the Navigator and any future Lincoln products not currently in the lineup.
The suit was filed in the Court of Common Pleas in Washington County, Pa., May 14. Dellaria is not seeking class-action status.
Dellaria is one of 530 Lincoln dealers in the United States not scheduled to receive the Navigator. The full-sized sport-utility, which is based on the Ford Expedition, will be introduced July 1.
Lincoln has said it wants to retail the Navigator - and possibly any new future products - in markets that have had at least 70 retail luxury-car registrations of all makes annually during the past four years. Dellaria is asking the Pennsylvania court to prevent Lincoln from invoking that rule.
Lincoln's stance has touched off protests in Texas and Iowa. The Texas Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division is investigating to determine if Lincoln's action violates state franchise laws. In Iowa, the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association told Lincoln the policy violates state contractual standards.
'My franchise is going to be worth a lot less money by not having Navigator and maybe not having the other car lines that may be coming down the road,' Dellaria said. The dealership sold 16 new Lincolns in 1996, Dellaria said. The dealership has sold Mercury vehicles since 1955 and Lincolns since 1970, he said.
Dellaria was granted a Ford Division franchise in 1980. But his dealership was supervised by Lincoln-Mercury until 1996, when it was transferred to the Ford Division. Dellaria now questions the timing of the transfer, because the 530 affected Lincoln dealers, all in rural areas and small towns, are supervised by the Ford Division.
Lincoln had 1,621 dealers on Dec. 31, 1996. Of that total, 794 were dealerships supervised by Lincoln-Mercury Division, and the remainder were Lincoln and Mercury franchises in dealerships supervised by Ford Division.
Lincoln representatives declined to comment, stating they had not seen the lawsuit.