SAN FRANCISCO -- Dealers who receive requests from Ford and other automakers to upgrade their facilities should just say “no” if they don't think an upgrade makes sense from a business standpoint, a dealer lawyer said.
Eric Chase, a lawyer from Florham Park, N.J., said dealers are under no legal obligation to comply with an automaker's request for renovations.
Automakers are forbidden from retaliating by laws in virtually every state, he said.
“The key for dealers is to make the decision before they sign an agreement with the manufacturer,” Chase said in an interview Sunday on the NADA convention floor. “Once you sign an agreement to upgrade your facility, it's tough -- though not impossible -- to get out of.”
Chase said he has been conveying this advice to dealers in private sessions at the convention.
His guidance is also in the National Association of Dealer Counsel's January newsletter being distributed on the convention floor.
Christian Bokich, a spokesman for Ford, said in an e-mail he wouldn't comment on the specifics of Chase's advice for dealers, but released a statement that said Lincoln's efforts would involve "full collaboration" with the dealers.
"We are going to deliver a truly premium ownership experience for customers, which will require dealers to invest differently to meet the needs of the luxury customers," the statement said. "Dealer standards (aka Lincoln Commitment Program) will be set into place with full collaboration with our dealer partners, for which continual business decisions will take place for all parties involved based on market realities on a reasonable basis."
With the sales outlook for the automobile industry improving, many automakers have been requesting facility renovations in recent months.
Ford dealers should be particularly cautious about complying with the manufacturer's requests to invest in Lincoln facilities, Chase said in the newsletter.
“The hard and unanswered Ford question, from 2011 into the future, is whether there is a long life ahead for Lincoln,” the newsletter article said. Ford dealers “should not throw their good dollars at a Lincoln vision until and unless they can make a business case.”