Lincoln again asking dealers to move out from under Ford's roof

Dealers who agree have until 2022 to build a standalone store

Lincoln is once again looking at ways to stand out from parent company Ford and establish itself as a credible player in the luxury segment. The company has returned to its plan for standalone showrooms to give its sales and image a boost.

In 2018, Lincoln asked 150 Ford-Lincoln dealerships in its 30 biggest American markets to make plans for a standalone showroom by July 2019, and inaugurate it by July 2021. Of those stores, 72 signed on — but the others resisted, partly because the move requires investing millions of dollars. Lincoln put the campaign on hiatus in December 2018, and now Automotive News has learned it's ready to relaunch the plan after finding a middle ground that satisfies both executives and store owners.

The publication said dealers gained more freedom to choose how big of a store they build; square foot requirements are no longer tied to the market size. Lincoln also agreed to treat dealers who don't comply more fairly, notably by reducing financial penalties, and it made the aforementioned deadlines more flexible. Standalone Lincoln stores must now be completed by July 2022.

The move makes sense, at least on paper. As Autoblog reported in 2018, research shows dealers with standalone showrooms sell more cars. The handful of Lincoln retailers that sell cars in purpose-built showrooms have seen their sales increase considerably faster than those who display the firm's models next to Ford-badged vehicles. Customers "want to buy a luxury product in a luxury environment," explained Robert Parker, Lincoln's head of marketing, at the time.

Lincoln was historically tied to Mercury, though the Continental also incongruously shared showroom space with the De Tomaso Pantera during the early 1970s. Lincoln moved under Ford's roof when Mercury was done away with in 2011, and it began experimenting with standalone stores in the early 2010s.

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