More than half of the Lincoln dealers in the top 130 U.S. markets have agreed to improve their dealerships, according to Ford marketing chief Jim Farley.
Seventy-five dealers in cities that include New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago already have completed new facilities or major renovations in line with Lincoln's version of the Ford Trustmark facilities plan, according to a company statement.
Many Lincoln dealers had been on the fence, uncertain whether to bet that Ford Motor Co. will be able to reinvigorate its luxury brand. The commitments come less than a month after Lincoln unveiled its MKZ Concept car at the Detroit auto show, a vision of the brand's future design direction.
Ford's luxury brand is whittling down its dealer count as part of its reinvention. Lincoln has exceeded its target of reducing its store count in those 130 markets to fewer than 325, from 500 previously.
Farley, Ford vice president of global marketing, sales and service, said the dealers have made a commitment to provide more than just improved buildings and showrooms.
"What is most important is that our vision for Lincoln is about personalized service'" he said in an interview last week. "I don't want to leave you with the impression that our vision is beautiful furniture and nice tile. What really matters to us is a really nice environment."
Farley said Lincoln dealers would be allowed to develop their own methods of providing the kind of personal treatment that luxury customers expect.
"Our approach to working with our dealers -- even on the consolidation of Lincoln and Ford -- has always been a joint, cooperative program. We work it differently than some of our competitors," Farley said.
"We really try to sit down with the dealers. We're very sensitive to the scale. We ask for the commitment to provide the kind of service."
Dealers would be allowed to "personalize service in a way that works for them," Farley said.
"We love that they're entrepreneurs and go to the market in their own unique way, from loaner cars to car washes to the personalized service experience that we'll deliver in those four walls that will be different from our competitors'."
Farley declined to say how much Lincoln is committing in incentives to dealers to encourage them to improve their facilities.
Lincoln has struggled to keep up with its luxury competitors. In 2011, Lincoln's U.S. sales totaled 85,643, down less than a percentage point and behind seven other luxury brands' totals.
Sales at BMW, last year's luxury-brand leader, rose 13 percent to 247,907, while industrywide light-vehicle sales rose 10 percent.