Ford Motor Co. recently issued Lincoln dealers an ultimatum: Decide by January to either invest more in their stores or lose their franchise.
Ford wants to make Lincoln more competitive with other luxury brands by improving products, the customer experience and financing.
But requiring all dealerships to make the same facility upgrades might not be realistic.
Take, for example, a Lincoln dealer I know. His store is near a rural community. He’s profitable and has high customer satisfaction scores. His clientele is fairly wealthy, albeit farmers. This dealer said he worries that fancy store upgrades would be seen as pretentious by these folks.
“If I put marble floors, stand-alone sinks and gold faucets in my bathrooms, my customers would think, ‘Gee, he’s doin’ pretty darn good here; he doesn’t need our business,’ ” the dealer told me.
Likewise, he said, the idea of putting a cafe or nail salon in his rural store would get him laughed out of town.
Fortunately for him, Ford appears to be most focused on upgrades at large metro area stores right now.
But eventually, the midmarket and rural stores will have to step up, too.
That’s when it will be interesting to see what Ford will want to play in Peoria.