DEARBORN – While much of the focus of Lincoln’s relaunch has been on the expansion of sales into China, the luxury brand is well-accustomed to the global stage. It’s actually been a global player for decades, and is currently sold in more than 30 countries throughout the Middle East and Central America, along with South Korea and Puerto Rico.
However, while it was previously available only in limited volumes in most countries, Ford Export and Growth (E&G) is laying the groundwork for a greatly expanded presence, strategically relaunching the upscale brand in select markets, and using many of the initiatives expected to drive Lincoln’s success elsewhere.
Azhar Piracha, E&G’s newly appointed Lincoln manager, says they are advising dealers to establish product and customer experience differentiation between Lincoln and Ford. “The goal is to reinforce Lincoln’s status as a premium brand that is relevant in today’s marketplace, one that reflects who customers are, what they stand for and what they aspire to be.”
Within E&G, as wherever Lincoln is sold, the facility, people and processes must provide the luxury experience customers expect from a premium brand.
Not every market is able to support a luxury brand, and Lincoln vehicles won’t be available in all locations. In markets where a luxury brand is a viable option, business is on the upswing. “Globally, the premium industry is projected to grow by more than 2 million vehicles by 2017,” says Scott Kalass, E&G franchising manager. “Lincoln isn’t going to try to be all things to all people, but everything to a select few.”
Dealers will be expected to offer unique customer benefits or perks to help differentiate Ford and Lincoln and establish Lincoln as a separate brand, with luxury as the key differentiator. E&G’s Lincoln team will work one-on-one with dealers to develop ways to achieve this objective.
As part of the reinvention of Lincoln, the Lincoln pillars QDP – Quality, Design and Personal Service – will drive the transformation. E&G will work closely with the new Lincoln Advisory Board, a group of the top five E&G Lincoln dealers who will meet monthly to develop a plan to grow the brand. In addition, Lincoln now has its own design center and advertising agency (Hudson Rouge).
A major focus is the necessity of attracting new buyers – those who do not currently own a Lincoln or Ford – in order to grow Lincoln, while winning back former owners and hanging onto current ones. To help accomplish this, dealers will need to deliver the levels of personal service luxury customers expect.
This will include a variation of the Lincoln Commitment Program recently launched in the United States. The program’s parameters are being developed in consultation with dealers and will evolve over time, with Ford providing training needed for key process improvements.
The company as well as dealers will need to pay close attention to details. Jerry Schoenle, advertising and launch manager, says the company is making a sizeable investment to help dealers succeed. “This will include a Lincoln-dedicated customer assistance center, so when customers reach out to us, they will receive a luxury treatment that parallels their dealership experience.”
Schoenle says the company has launched Lincoln desktop web sites, as well as mobile sites, in the Middle East, South Korea and Puerto Rico. It is also investing millions of dollars to launch the Lincoln MKZ across multiple channels in the Middle East in September and in South Korea, where the luxury car’s Asian debut generated substantial media attention and positive reviews and sales are off to a strong start. South Korea and the Middle East will be E&G’s largest Lincoln markets.
The Lincoln brand launch is occurring in multiple phases, with dealers involved in setting the standards throughout the process.