Lincoln executives think their plan to have dealers in the top 30 luxury market build standalone stores is a no-brainer.
Some dealers, however, are concerned about the cost and wonder whether the brand is looking to purge lower-performing showrooms in the process.
Lincoln executives used this year's NADA Show make meeting to listen to feedback about their effort to separate dual Ford-Lincoln showrooms in top markets. The brand has paused the program in response to issues dealers have raised, and a decision about going forward is expected this year.
Company officials, including Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett, used the meeting to stress the importance of standalone showrooms, saying separate facilities are necessary to compete with other luxury brands. Executives showed charts of sales increases for dealers who have made the switch.
Some Lincoln dealers at the show said they worry what message it's sending to low-volume retailers.
"They want to be more like an Audi, BMW or Lexus where people will travel 100 miles to buy a car," said Rick Mohr, owner of Eau Claire Ford-Lincoln in Wisconsin. "I think they're trying to eliminate smaller stores."
Officials have said they expect some dealers to drop the brand, but they don't expect the size of the network to drastically change, as more dealers potentially come aboard.
The company plans to meet with its dealer council in March and "make a go/no-go decision" on possible tweaks after that, according to Kevin Cour, the brand's director of marketing, sales and service. Executives have indicated they intend to keep the program in some fashion.