In late 2010, Lincoln outlined a plan to cut 175 of its 500 metropolitan dealerships. The goal was to eliminate redundancy, while at the same time giving the remaining stores a better chance to succeed.

Six months into the plan, Bloomberg reports that The Blue Oval has so far cut 100 of those dealers, bringing the total amount of retail outlets in the top 130 markets to 400. The next step for the remaining dealers is to upgrade their facilities to include new training and staffing standards and perks like free car washes in the hopes of meeting or exceeding the buying experience at Lexus or BMW stores. Dealers have until August 31 to meet these new standards, which are said to cost up to $2 million per store. Those who don't qualify may receive decreased marketing support from Ford. The Blue Oval is reportedly still offering to buy Lincoln dealers or pair them with Ford franchises.

There is no question that Ford is asking dealers to heavily invest in their dealerships, and at a time when sales are very, very poor. Lincoln sales are down 11 percent so far in 2011, while the industry at large has experienced a 20-percent sales increase. But while sales are slow now, Ford has promised to introduce seven new Lincoln models by 2014. Ford is meeting with the Lincoln dealer council this week to discuss changes in customer service, while also giving the select dealers a sneak peek at some next-generation Lincoln models.

[Source: Bloomberg | Image: Stephen Brashear/Getty]


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