Ford Motor Co. has a large and diverse stable of brands. But with that comes big hurdles. Some brands overlap, and Ford will have to figure out how to give each brand its own identity.
Jaguar is already on solid brand ground. Lincoln has just been repositioned to 'American Luxury.' Others aren't so easy. Doesn't Ford Division's new Focus compete with Mazda's small cars? What's the best way to group all these brands at dealerships? Most dualed Mazda dealers are dualed with General Motors, not another Ford brand.
All that dualing happened before Ford acquired a majority share of Mazda. Still, it makes no sense. Lincoln is part of Wolfgang Reitzle's new Premier Automotive Group with Jaguar, Volvo and Aston Martin. So why should it be teamed with Mercury at dealerships?
A couple of Ford insiders and execs close to the carmaker tell me the company is studying lots of branding and dealership issues. But nothing has been decided.
Ford might as well separate Lincoln's operations from Mercury's and combine Mercury with Mazda. But Mercury-Mazda would be a nightmare to accomplish at dealerships. The National Automobile Dealers Assoc-iation says only 47 Mazda dealers are dualed with Lincoln Mercury.
There is no formal plan to combine Mazda dealerships with Mercury or with Lincoln Mercury dealerships, says Ann Belec, franchise and business development manager at Lincoln Mercury.
As opportunities arise, such as when a Mazda dealer is selling a point or a new Mazda point is being added, Lincoln Mercury encourages a marriage, she says. About 20 of those matches were put together in the past couple of years.
Belec says the marriages are about cutting duplicate processes, not about branding or marketing. She maintains there is no cross shopping between Mercury and Mazda.
Hmmm. There is some overlap, according to a recent analysis by consultancy A.T. Kearney Inc. in Chicago.
Ford has intriguing challenges. But it has been - and should be - willing to make bold moves.
Jean Halliday welcomes comments. Call her at (313) 446-0374 or send e-mail to [email protected]