When members of the Lincoln National Dealer Council meet with Ford Motor Co. executives next week, some dealers will want a clarification on standards they're supposed to meet by this fall.
The chairman of the dealer council says he will discuss the standards during the April 18-19 meeting, but he says Ford has adequately explained them to dealers through webcasts, mailings and regional meetings.
But many dealers disagree and say they're still fuzzy about specifics.
Ford executives unveiled the standards at the Lincoln make meeting during the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in February. Included in the standards: Dealers must offer Lincoln loaner vehicles for Lincoln service customers, and at least 30 percent of dealers' used Lincoln vehicles must be certified pre-owned.
Dealers who don't comply with the standards by Sept. 1 and have opted not to surrender their franchises to Ford face losing part of their dealer discount -- the difference between what a dealer pays for a vehicle and its sticker price -- starting Oct. 1. On a $35,000 vehicle, that could be a hit of $700 or more, says a dealer who asked not to be named.
Lincoln spokesman Christian Bokich says many of the dealers' questions will be answered in an online guidebook available today, April 11, on Lincoln's dealer Web site. It will include a toll-free phone number and an e-mail address for inquiries.
"We will keep an eye on every question submitted to see what adjustments need to be made," Bokich says.
Several dealers question whether they'll be in violation for giving a Lincoln service customer a Ford-brand loaner even if the customer requests the Ford. What if, they say, a Lincoln Navigator SUV is in for service and the customer wants a similar-sized Ford Expedition, not a Lincoln MKZ sedan?
"The rule is 80 percent of the customers that Ford follows up on have to get a Lincoln loaner," says Bob Tasca Jr., chairman of the Lincoln National Dealer Council and owner of Tasca Automotive Group, which has Ford-Lincoln stores in Cranston, R.I., and Seekonk, Mass.
But there will be allowances, Tasca says, adding: "You may have a situation in the course of the day where you don't have enough Lincoln loaner cars."
Dealer George Gainer worries about the cost to meet the certified pre-owned requirement. Gainer, who owns Bay Ford in Blountstown, Fla., and Bay Lincoln in Panama City, Fla., says it costs about $400 a vehicle to get it certified. For him, that could amount to more than $100,000 a year. Likewise, another Lincoln dealer who asked not to be named questions how Ford will monitor whether 30 percent of a dealer's used Lincoln inventory is certified pre-owned.
"Say you have 10 used Lincolns in stock, and 40 percent were certified pre-owned, and you sold two of them. Now you're down to eight in stock and only two being certified pre-owned, do you have to scramble to get two more certified pre-owns to make yourself compliant?" the dealer asks.
Tasca says given that dealer inventory is always changing, the 30 percent rule would probably apply to how much stock a dealer has at month's end.
"But that's a good question," Tasca adds. "That would be a question that I could ask at the meeting. I think it's probably going to be a trust factor there."