Lincoln’s new showrooms put cars on exhibit, also teach French

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2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring Ford

Based on feedback from its dealers, Lincoln is reconfiguring its efforts to get some of them to build standalone showrooms, separate from Ford stores—something Lincoln managers say is critical to improving the brand’s luxury image.

Automotive News reports that Ford’s luxury brand had gotten blowback over the Lincoln Commitment Program regarding both the size of showrooms Lincoln was requiring and the size of the increased profit margins allowed to participating dealers. As a result, Lincoln has given those dealers wider options in terms of showroom size and has trimmed the increased margin to mollify dealers who decide not to run separate showrooms. Lincoln has also pushed back the deadline for dealers to enroll in the LCP to mid-2022.

Lincoln is promoting a new dealer design theme titled Vitrine, which is the French term for a glass display case. The new showrooms feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows allowing passersby to see the vehicles illuminated at night. Dealers who decide to participate can opt for either a two-vehicle boutique or a larger showroom with room for four or six cars or SUVs. While a two-car boutique doesn’t sound like much of a commitment, that likely represents a seven-figure investment.

The program was originally offered to dual Ford-Lincoln dealerships in the 30 largest U.S. luxury vehicle markets, but it will now be available to all dual dealers. A separate signage subsidy program offers dealers $100,000 if they create distinct brand names for their Ford and Lincoln shops.

The push will help Lincoln’s efforts to make the brand more distinctive from Ford. Even though Lincoln’s products generally share design and mechanical resources with Ford, that association is hampering Lincoln’s attempts to move more upmarket. To that end, Lincoln’s latest redesigns and refreshes have helped create a stronger visual identity for the brand. Another smart move is the decision to give the models actual names, many of which recall Lincoln’s glory days, instead of simply slapping on a three-letter combination beginning with “M.”

Lincoln reports that so far, six dealers have opened up Vitrine showrooms and another 10 standalone stores will launch over the next year. The company says that nearly all dealers who have built new stores have seen sales increase. Standalone Lincoln shops saw their retail sales rise 48 percent from 2014 to 2017, compared to 18 percent for Lincoln dealers overall.

Lincoln President Joy Falotico said in a statement, “We are now moving forward with the program and remain committed to brand-exclusive facilities as it is key to our brand transformation by addressing the needs of luxury clients.”

Tom Lynch, the Lincoln dealers’ national council chairman and general manager of North Florida Lincoln in Jacksonville, Fla., agreed with Falotico. Lynch said, “If we’re going to be competitive in the luxury space, we need to be exclusive.”

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