Urban drivers in the market for a Lincoln may have a bit more difficulty locating a seller, as Ford has cut nearly 20 percent of its metro Lincoln dealers over the past few months.
The move is not entirely unexpected, as the 500 dealers were reportedly told back in October that the automaker was looking to cut 175 of them. The closings are ostensibly to make the remaining Lincoln dealers stronger by reducing competition among themselves. Bloomberg reports that more than 100 dealers have already been cut, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Ford's trimming of the dealer network is part of a larger plan to bring the Lincoln brand back to prominence. Of Ford's many brands, Lincoln was the only one to survive the company's restructuring, as Mercury was discontinued and Jaguar and Volvo were sold off. Ford has repeatedly stated that it hopes to revitalize Lincoln with a new lineup of vehicles that will make it more competitive against other luxury automakers.
However, those plans have yet to come to fruition. Sales figures for 2011 so far show Lincoln down by approximately 11 percent, while the rest of the industry is enjoying a 20 percent spike in sales on average.
Drivers in the market for a Lincoln vehicle can still find both new and used cars for sale at New Jersey State Auto Auction.
Ford has announced that its Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is selling better than expected, surprising many analysts and even the company itself.
Automotive News reports that Ford is somewhat surprised at the recent totals for the MKZ Hybrid. In what is believed to be an industry first, the hybrid version is priced the same as the gas version of the MKZ. Despite this attractive incentive, Ford only expected 15 percent of total MKZ sales to be for the hybrid. Instead, it's been selling close to 22 or 23 percent.
"Lincoln’s latest models continue to be well received by luxury car customers," said C.J. O’Donnell, Lincoln group marketing manager. "The MKZ Hybrid is just the start of the journey we are taking in redefining the Lincoln brand and its new model range for the future."'
A hybrid that's priced the same as it's gas-powered counterpart is relatively unique in the auto industry, but the fact is that the Lincoln MKZ is still priced as a luxury model. Smart shoppers may want to wait for the price to drop on the used car market, then take advantage of further discounts by purchasing from New Jersey State Auto Auction.
JD Power has released the result of its annual dependability survey, and in a somewhat surprising turn of events, Ford's luxury Lincoln brand ended up on top.
Lincoln has never topped the survey over the 21 years its been run, but the marquee was able to edge past Lexus. JD Power reported that Lincoln owners tallied an average of 101 maintenance problems per 100 3-year-old vehicles, while Lexus had an average of 109.
Jaguar and Porsche grabbed third and fourth place, respectively. Toyota was rated as the most dependable non-luxury brand, with an average of 122 problems per 100 vehicles.
Overall, the industry turned in its best year ever for the survey, with automakers averaging 151 problems for every 100 vehicles. That was down from recent totals of 155 in 2010 and 167 in 2009.
"Automakers, as a whole, have made significant improvements in reducing traditional problems" the past several years, claims David Sargent, vice president of auto research for JD Power.
Still, while the industry is doing well, some companies were not up to par. The Chrysler group fared particularly poorly, with Ram trucks at 173 problems and Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep all over 200.
Those looking for a dependable vehicle at an affordable price may want to check out New Jersey State Auto Auction, which offers a variety of cars for sale at affordable prices.
Ford has announced that it will be upping its production totals for the first three months of 2011 as it seeks to meet the rising demand for automobiles during the first few months of the year. However, the company is also looking to decrease its dealer network in major cities.
At the recent National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention in San Francisco, Ford announced that it would be increasing production by 13 percent over the next three months, bringing the total number of shippable units up to 555,000. There was more good news for dealers, as Ford announced that more than 80 percent of its dealers were profitable again, a drastic turnaround from the depths of the recession.
However, it wasn't all good news. In order to revive its flailing Lincoln luxury brand, the automaker said that it would be looking to trim nearly 100 Lincoln dealerships in major metropolitan areas, bringing the total number down from 434 to 325. Ford claims that competing dealers in the same area are cannibalizing sales and reducing profits for each other.
"If we don't get the throughput in the major metro markets right-sized, then the transformation of Lincoln is going…to need a different plan," Ford marketing chief Jim Farley told Reuters. "This transformation is going to hinge on several things working including the (dealer) network."
While Ford has engineered a massive turnaround for its core brand throughout 2010, its luxury Lincoln marquee has lagged behind for the most part.
If Ford executives have their way, however, that won't be true for long. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Derrick Kuzak, Ford's global vice president of product development, outlined the big changes that Ford has for the struggling luxury line.
"The strategy isn't just new products, but full differentiation from the Ford brand in not only design, but in technology," he said.
Until now, Lincoln products have been slightly upgraded versions of existing Ford vehicles. But the new outlook for the brand is to develop models that will be based off of Ford platforms, but vastly different in all other areas. Examples include significant performance upgrades, entirely new sheet metal, high-end technology on the interior and in some cases, unique engines.
According to USA Today, Ford CEO Alan Mulally further told a group of reporters that the naming conventions for Lincoln vehicles were also under consideration, and that the automaker may move away from the "MK" style seen on recent vehicles.
Ford has announced the hiring of Max Wolff, a former Cadillac designer, to head up the complete overhaul of its luxury Lincoln brand.
With the discontinuation of the Mercury brand, Ford has announced that it will be shifting focus to a redesign of the Lincoln nameplate, with seven new vehicles expected over the next four years. To help along that process, the company brought in Wolff, who oversaw the exterior design of the CTS Coupe and several other popular Cadillacs at General Motors.
"Max's drive, talent, and knowledge of automotive design within the premium segment of the market make him a great addition to the global design team," said J Mays, Ford's chief creative officer and vice president of design. "He is a recognized design leader and has a successful track record in the development of production and concept vehicles, including the Holden SSX show car."
Lincoln has lagged behind luxury brands like Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz even as Ford grew its market share with increased sales this month to be come the second highest-selling brand in the country.
Those who shop the used car market may be able to find good deals on cars from Mercury and other discontinued brands. The used car market will also be the only place to find older Lincoln models, like the Town Car and Aviator, which are expected to be phased out in the near future.
After ending the Mercury brand, Ford is currently in the process of reviving the Lincoln luxury line, and plans to take aim at one of the best-selling market segments by introducing a compact luxury SUV.
The unnamed Lincoln model is said to be smaller than the company's MKX and designed to compete with the top-selling Lexus RX, according to the Detroit Free Press.
"Our commitment to Lincoln is to reinvent it," Ford VP of Marketing Ken Czubay told the news source. "We will have seven major new products or redesigns over the next two years."
The new model is set to be built at the company's Louisville production facility, which currently makes the Ford Escape and Explorer. The new Lincoln is expected to eventually take the slot of the Explorer, which will cease production on December 13th.
Lincoln has struggled lately despite Ford's renewed vigor for the brand. In fact, Mercury, which Ford chose to axe in favor of Lincoln, has actually outsold the brand thus far this year.
Drivers in the market for a luxury vehicle may want to check a used car dealership, as they might be able to get the typically-expensive models at an affordable price.
With Mercury set to close down in the coming months, Ford will be paying more attention to its Lincoln luxury brand as it looks to compete with top luxury automakers in Europe and Japan.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Lincoln has a new dedicated design team and will roll out seven new models over the next four years. These will be a mix of reworkings of Mercury vehicles, overhauls of existing models and brand-new cars.
The new head of product development, Scott Tobin, is a Ford veteran who will look to establish a new identity for Lincoln that is separate from Ford. The challenge for Tobin will be creating a brand that stands on its own. Many people don't think Volkswagen when they see an Audi or even associate Lexus with Toyota, yet critics have been quick to point out that many Lincolns are simply high-end Fords without their own unique powertrains.
"When people think of Lincoln, I want people to think of a very serene, beautiful vehicle that is very connected to the road and responsive," he told the news source.
The company will also try to skew younger, as research currently shows that the average age of a Lincoln driver is 61 – over a decade older than a BMW driver. Tobin will aim for the 40-50 year old range with features like touchscreen navigation and gas-electric hybrids.
Drivers shopping for a luxury vehicle may want to check out their local used car dealership, as they may be able to find a great deal on the typically expensive cars.
As the domestic car brands reinvent their vehicles, consumers are slowly taking notice of improvements. This is evidenced by the results of a new consumer satisfaction survey, which saw domestic brands take the top spots for the first time ever.
Ford‘s Lincoln and GM’s Buick lines took the top two spots in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. GM remained unchanged from the last survey with 88 percent of consumers satisfied, while Lincoln posted a 1 percent increase to take the top spot at 89 percent.
While the results were good news for Detroit’s automakers, the rest of the auto industry was not as lucky. Customer satisfaction scores fell by 2.4 percent on average overall, with fourteen of the nineteen ranked brands declining in satisfaction. While the American brands remained unchanged for the most part, they were able to take the top spot thanks to sharp fall by Toyota‘s previously top-ranked Lexus brand.
“No doubt they’re benefiting from [the recalls], but they’re also doing more things right,” said Claes Fornel, the founder of the index.
Nissan, meanwhile, posted the biggest gain with a 5 percent increase, with an overall satisfaction rating of 82 percent.
Customers in the market for a vehicle may want to heed these or previous results, then shop the used car market in order to get the best deal.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has recently unveiled nine more cars for its prestigious “Top Safety Pick” award. The IIHS tests every new model in several tests to earn the award, and the car must perform well in each test in order to qualify.
This year’s awards added a new test for roof strength, which is important in rollover situations, according to the Chicago Tribune. In addition, the cars must pass 40-mph frontal crash tests, side crash tests, and rear crash/whiplash tests, as well as be equipped with an electronic stability control system.
Ford picked up awards for its Ford Fusion and Flex, as well as its luxury Lincoln MKZ and MKT. The Audi A4 and Hyundai Tucson were also recent winners.
The tests take some time, so the winners are released in waves. Previous 2010 model award-winners include the Honda Civic and Element, Mercedes E and C Class and Toyota Corolla and Avalon.
The IIHS has done the tests since 2006 and keeps archives of all the winners by model year on their website. Drivers searching for a used car can use this as a resource to ensure that their next purchase is of the highest quality.