In 2012, Lincoln dealers will be divided into two classes: those who are in the top 130 luxury markets and those who are outside.
Ford Motor Co.'s luxury brand has decided to focus on the major metro markets where competitors such as Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW do their biggest business. Dealers in the rest of the country will probably have some choices to make, says Bob Tasca Jr., owner of Tasca Ford-Lincoln in Cranston, R.I., and chairman of the Lincoln National Dealer Council.
"I think you're going to have the core dealers in the top 130 markets who do the vast majority of the volume," said Tasca in an interview. "I think the other dealers on the outskirts who do very little volume are going to have to make a business decision. ... They don't have to do anything, but their volume is so small they're probably better concentrating on Ford."
In the top 130 markets, Lincoln exceeded its goals in trimming dealers. By the end of 2011, the number of dealers had dropped 35 percent to below 325. Lincoln says the reduction isn't quite finished. Lincoln has about 600 dealers outside the top 130 markets.
Lincoln is planning on several new products, including a redesigned MKZ sedan, shown in concept form at the Detroit auto show. The production sedan will introduce a new Lincoln look later this year. Tasca predicts the new look will start bringing more customers into Lincoln showrooms. Lincoln is looking for a new generation of "culturally progressive customers."
Tasca is happy that Lincoln has formed an ad agency in New York just for Lincoln.
"It will concentrate on our premium brand and won't be worried about Ford. It will be Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincoln. We have to be patient. It's going to take some time.
"When you put that new MKZ out there with some advertising, you're going to get some traffic" he says. Tasca believes Ford Motor has laid the groundwork for Lincoln's success by showing how to execute a turnaround with the bread-and-butter Ford brand.
"Look what they did with Ford. They had products. The quality was there. They got noticed. The rest is history," he says. "If they can do it with Ford, they can do it with Lincoln." c