In a turnaround from its strategy in recent years of consolidating the Ford and Lincoln brands, Lincoln has announced a new incentive plan to its dealerships in the U.S. to encourage them to build stand-alone retail outlets. This is according to a new report on the Automotive News website.
The plan targets around 150 dealerships in the 30 biggest luxury markets, which together make up around 70% of American luxury-vehicle sales.
Lincoln cited several studies consistently showing that luxury-car buyers prefer to shop in a dedicated, high-end space. The company also cited sale figures that show significantly higher sales in Lincoln-brand dealerships that have dedicated showrooms.
"Customers expect the environment to be equal to the product. They want to buy a luxury product in a luxury environment."
- Robert Parker, Lincoln director of marketing, sales and service, in interview with Automotive News
Already, close to half of the Ford-Lincoln dealerships in those target markets have independently built or are in the process of building stand-alone stores for the Lincoln brand. The new incentive program aims to encourage the remaining dealers to follow suit, or at least commit to doing so by July 2019.
The request remains just that, a request. Dealerships can choose not to participate in the program. These, would, however, miss out on the incentives being offered, including the automaker’s help in finding suitable land, and higher bonuses for each sale after a new Lincoln-specific store opens.
The French word for window or glass display, Vitrine is the name Lincoln is giving its signature design esthetic for its stand-alone dealerships. Huge floor-to-ceiling glass windows allow for nighttime illuminating of the vehicles, which sit on a runway-type floor space, fitted with special lights on the ground. Desk and chairs in the individual sales meeting rooms are replaced by pavilions, stocked with couches and TVs.
The push to provide the Lincoln brand with a higher-visibility retail presence comes at a critical time for the luxury carmaker. A number of new products have been introduced in recent years, and the Nautilus crossover is set to replace the MKX later this year, with the new Aviator three-row SUV scheduled to follow in 2019.
"The next phase of the transformation is critical. This is probably the biggest two years in Lincoln's history."
- Robert Parker
No word yet on whether Canada will eventually be part of the incentive program.