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Ford: Lincoln stores need own staff

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Ford: Lincoln stores need own staff

Brand's customer service push is taking shape

Jamie LaReau

Automotive News -- December 6, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

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All Ford-Lincoln dealerships should have a dedicated staff to sell and service Lincolns, says C.J. O'Donnell, Lincoln's group marketing manager.

If the Lincoln National Dealer Council agrees to that this week, O'Donnell wants it carried out in the next few months.

The new rule is part of a still-developing plan to improve customer service at Lincoln dealerships so the brand can compete with top luxury brands. In June, Ford Motor Co. executives killed Mercury and promised to develop refined luxury vehicles in the coming years for the Lincoln dealers to sell.

"The luxury customer expects a high level of product knowledge," O'Donnell said in an interview. "If you have a Ford-Lincoln dealership, there are 23 or so products, and that's too much for anyone to understand."

In May Ford named O'Donnell, 48, group marketing manager of Lincoln Mercury. He had been global marketing director for Jaguar.

In October, Ford told Lincoln dealers to prepare to invest in showroom renovations and improve customer service. If they chose not to, Ford would offer to buy out their franchise. Lincoln wants dealers to decide by next summer.

Ford wants to eliminate at least 200 Lincoln dealerships in the top 130 U.S. markets. There are about 1,200 U.S. Lincoln dealerships.

O'Donnell said the brand is working with the Lincoln National Dealer Council to revise the advertising co-op program and extend dealer training. Lincoln probably will boost profit margins to allow dealers to offer bonuses to exemplary sales or service employees.

Lincoln will discuss the topics during a three-day meeting with the dealer council starting Wednesday, Dec. 8, said Bob Tasca Jr., a Rhode Island dealer and head of Lincoln's dealer council.

"They're going to be stricter on how we go to market with Lincoln and clean up some of these ads that are not really representative of a luxury brand," Tasca said.

But O'Donnell's main focus is for dualed dealers to create a dedicated sales and service staff for Lincoln soon.

"That's a key step as we go forward because those people must be immediately certified with our sales and service training," he said. "We need to pull out the teams as to who's Lincoln and who's Ford, who can successfully sell an F-150 and who can sell a Lincoln. We need to elevate all of that and to know who to train and who to reward."

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101206/RETAIL03/312069955/1256#ixzz17L7Pvnoa

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"this is an M.K.S. It is really a nice luxury car. It is kind of like our Taurus 60 feet across the room behind that big divider wall, except its a little more dull, but has like british leather and THX. And its got more incentives."

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