SAN FRANCISCO -- Ford Motor Co. spelled out the standards that its 1,100 remaining U.S. Lincoln dealers must meet by year-end if they want to continue selling the brand.
The requirements include:
• Offering what Lincoln calls “owner privileges.” That includes providing a free car wash and loaner vehicle to owners who come in for service, said Christian Bokich, a Lincoln spokesman.
• Having a dedicated service manager and dedicated sales staff for Lincoln, Bokich said. That applies specifically to Lincoln dealers paired with Ford stores.
• Having only the word “Lincoln” appear on all franchise signage, not Mercury. Ford discontinued the Mercury brand as of Dec. 31.
• Having at least 30 percent of used-vehicle inventory be certified pre-owned vehicles.
“We believe everything we're laying out is more than reasonable compared to our competitors,” Bokich said.
Some dealers at the Lincoln franchise meeting, where the requirements were outlined, said it will be challenging for smaller stores to comply.
More details to come
Ford will mail out specific details of the requirements to dealers this week. Ford expects Lincoln dealers to meet those demands by Oct. 1 or sell their franchises back to Ford. Ford will reduce the dealer-discount profit margins for those who do neither.
Ford also told dealers it expects to lose more than 100 stores in the top 130 markets this year.
Ford is in the midst of rebuilding the Lincoln brand, which finished 2010 with sales up 4 percent to 85,828 units. That's far less than competitors Cadillac and Lexus -- and industrywide sales rose 11 percent.
In October, when Ford first told Lincoln dealers of its plans to rebuild Lincoln, it had about 500 Lincoln dealerships in the top 130 markets. It currently has 434 and its goal by year-end is to be at 325, says Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president of U.S. sales and marketing.
"The sooner the better," Czubay had said in an interview with the media. "It's to the benefit of the brand. The sooner the better. We certainly need to be well on our way to completion by the end of this year."
But a spokesman from Ford later clarified the automaker does not have a specific timeframe for reaching the goal of 325 stores.
Ford wants to reduce the number of Lincoln stores to increase volume, and profits, at the remaining dealers.