Ford Motor Co. wants fewer Lincoln dealerships and more of them shared with Ford-brand stores. Company executives shared plans for overhauling Lincoln with dealers this week.
But to make its plan work, the automaker must do a better job of distinguishing Lincoln vehicles from Ford-brand vehicles. Ford's designers have gotten better at setting Lincolns apart in recent years – for instance, the Lincoln MKT bears little resemblance to its platform mate, the Ford Flex. But it's not enough. Lincolns and Fords are still too much alike.
With Fords moving upscale and offering most of the same technology options that Lincolns have, how do you make the Lincoln worth the extra money in a Ford-Lincoln showroom? When the redesigned Taurus went on sale in 2009, it actually had features absent in its Lincoln counterpart, the MKS.
Stand-alone Lincoln dealers have long told me that the Lincolns largely become tools to sell more Fords in a dualed dealership. I witnessed that in action last fall when I drove an MKS on a visit to a Ford dealership. Spotting the MKS parked in a visitor spot in front of a showroom, a salesman at the dealership pointed it out to his customer, talked it up – and then delivered his punch line: “This is pretty much the same as the Taurus (which) costs $10,000 less. Come look at the Taurus.”
I was glad to hear that Ford may be developing a large flagship sedan, perhaps a new Continental, for Lincoln. One word of advice: Just make sure it stands alone in the showroom.