Larry Taylor is living proof that dealers value automakers' certified used-vehicle programs.
Even before Ford Motor Co. said in June that it would kill Mercury, Taylor, a member of the Ford Lincoln Mercury National Dealer Council, was pretty sure the brand wasn't long for this world. But in May he took on a Lincoln-Mercury franchise anyway, to get access to certified used Lincolns.
"I want to sell new Lincolns, but the main reason I got it is I wanted to sell certified Lincolns," said Taylor, owner of what is now Beau Townsend Ford-Lincoln-Mercury in Vandalia, Ohio.
Through August, he had sold 703 certified Ford, Lincoln and Mercury cars and trucks, about 20 short of his Ford-only total at the same time last year.
Ford, which has been working for years to reduce its dealership roster, said in June that it would phase out Mercury by the end of this year. That spells the end for 1,712 Mercury franchises, including the one just acquired by Taylor.
No big deal, said Taylor, because the factory allowed him to dual Lincoln and Mercury with his Ford store. The new franchises helped him sell almost as many new vehicles last month as he did in August 2009, when the federal government's cash-for-clunkers program was going strong.
Taylor sold 140 new Ford and 14 new Lincoln and Mercury cars and trucks in August, just two short of the 156 new Fords he sold a year earlier.
"It's been a good investment," he said. "I have no extra expenses, no extra rent factor, no extra employees."
Taylor said he particularly likes selling certified used Lincolns because they are covered by Ford Motor's 72-month/100,000-mile warranty. The automaker also offers special finance rates on certified Lincolns from time to time. Those perks were unavailable to customers who bought late-model used Lincolns from him before he acquired the Lincoln-Mercury franchise.
Through September, Ford is offering qualified buyers 3.9 percent for up to 60 months on certain certified used Lincolns: Aviator, Navigator, Mark LT, Town Car, Zephyr, LS, MKS, MKT and MKZ.
In August, Ford brand U.S. dealers sold 9,290 certified used vehicles, down 3 percent from August 2009. Sales of certified Lincoln and Mercury vehicles fell 9 percent to 1,509.
Through August, Ford brand dealers sold 78,157 certified vehicles, down 4 percent from the year-earlier period. In the same period, Lincoln and Mercury certified sales were down 7 percent to 13,223.