DETROIT -- Lincoln will offer its dealers cash assistance to help them keep customers who have been frustrated by delays in receiving their MKZ sedans.
The payments will help dealers compensate customers who had to extend their leases while they waited or who rented cars after their leases expired.
"We know there are a lot of customers who have ordered vehicles who have been waiting," including some "who have extended their existing lease multiple months," said Kevin Cour, Lincoln sales and service manager. "This allows dealers the financial flexibility to take care of customers in a personal way.
"We're going to assess how big of a share of the dealers' total new vehicle business is attributable to the MKZ. Then we will provide a payment relative to that."
Ford Motor Co. builds the MKZ in Hermosillo, Mexico. Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, told dealers last week that Lincoln had shipped batches of MKZs to Ford's Flat Rock, Mich., assembly plant for quality inspections to keep up with the volume of cars coming out of Hermosillo -- and would do so for all of Hermosillo's Lincoln output from Jan. 28 through the week of Feb. 25.
The redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion mid-sized sedan, which has been recalled twice since its launch, is also built at Hermosillo on the same platform as the MKZ.
The MKZ usually runs neck-and-neck with the MKX as the best-selling Lincoln. But MKZ sales plunged 73 percent in January as dealers ran out of 2012s.
Bill Knight, chairman of the Lincoln National Dealer Council and owner of Bill Knight Lincoln in Tulsa, Okla., said most dealers understand the delay even though many are frustrated.
"They're not going to let timing trump quality. Although painful, I think we all the support the decision," he said.
Cour declined to specify what has delayed the production launch, saying only, "We have not had any substantial quality issues.
"We are 100 percent committed to the highest level of quality," Cour said in an interview. "The final quality inspection process was put in place to ensure we delivered on that mission."
Lincoln was scheduled to run two 30-second spots during the Super Bowl for the car, part of an effort to promote the sedan as the first of a new generation of Lincolns that will invigorate the brand.
Dealers just hope their cars arrive soon.
"It's like the ghost car," said one dealer who declined to be named. "They've given us multiple target dates that have come and gone. You don't know what to tell people. Now I've just instructed salespeople to say we don't know for sure when they're coming."