I have had the privilege in my automotive career since 1971 to see a lot of old brands go out and a lot of new brands come in, with many model changes. I, like many of you out there, suffered in 1980/81 with a Chrysler franchise and all the problems that went along with a down economy and a bad product. I was very proud of Ford and I wrote an article that told how proud I was that they did not take the loan guarantee and their dealers stood fast and made it happen. I also had the opportunity to write about the perseverance of Buick dealers and their employees that hung in there. It looks like they are going to survive to be one of strongest U.S. made brands in this country, and one of the ones to come out of the fire with more fury than we’ve seen in many years. Congratulations to you Buick guys.
But, without a shadow of a doubt I have never been more impressed with a group of dealers in my life than I am with the Lincoln dealers in the U.S. and Canada. They are the truest example of absolute and total uncut entrepreneurship with the ability to get up every day and go to work. They motivate their people and give the sales managers that have to come in day after day after day. They continue to tell their people that the light in the tunnel is the headlight of the new product, not the train. I have never seen perseverance by a dealer body in my career as strong as that of our Lincoln dealers in the U.S. and Canada.
I recently went to a classic car show in Orange Park, Florida (which is my home) and I had a young man approach me who was well dressed, well groomed and well mannered. Without being intrusive he handed me his business card and said he noticed me looking at primarily the Ford and GM classic cars. He went on to say if he could help me with any transportation needs to please let him know. I watched this young man as he would stand on that concrete and watch the people and what they were looking at and approach them in a very professional manner. When I looked at the card I noticed that he was a salesperson at one of our stand alone Lincoln dealerships. I wrote his dealer a note telling him how impressed I was, that this young man, rather than sitting in his office, or standing on the point with two or three others complaining about traffic being off or about Lincoln having no real solid product and corporate giving them nothing but lip service, he was out there generating business for a dealer and a brand that he believed in.
I had the privilege of meeting with Lincoln a few years ago at NADA to discuss a program to assist them in getting out of over aged cars. However one of the executives that I met with informed me that at that time their priority was trying to move and relocate the Ford employees that had been caught up in the cut back and that used vehicles was going to have to be on the back burner. That told me how serious the factory was with helping the Lincoln dealers.
Guys, you have proved your medal. You should form a strong Lincoln dealer association, and go to the powers to be with your fellow dealers and tell them what you want. Nobody knows better what the public asks for than the salespeople and salesmanagers that work the deals because they hear about the products they are competing against.
Now I, like you, firmly believe that the sheet medal designers in Detroit went to sleep about 20 years ago. It’s time for you to wake them up and tell them what you want. Tell them you want a retro car. If you look at what retro cars are designed for, it is to draw traffic to the dealership and put some pizzazz back in the brand. What you need to do with your factory, is what you have done for yourself, and that is prove that no matter how tough it is, or how bad it gets, you’re on the black top, not in the back drop.
Ladies and gentlemen, Lincoln dealers in the U.S. and Canada and to every salesperson and sales manager, I admire and salute your perseverance. I have no doubt in my mind that you will prevail because you have weathered the hail.