Ford says top Lincoln dealers face $900,000 bill to sell EVs

“We’ve got to keep evolving,” Michael Sprague, North America director of Lincoln, told Automotive News. “We need to make sure over the next couple of years, as we’re preparing for that EV future, that we’re ready when those clients start to come into the market.”

Lincoln’s plans share some similarities with the Ford brand’s approach, although Ford is letting dealers pick from two different investment levels, including a lower tier that limits their annual EVs sales volume.

Lincoln, in contrast, is dividing its network of 650 stores into two camps based on the size of their market. Dealerships in the top 130 markets must spend roughly $900,000 to install two DC fast chargers and seven Level 2 chargers. Lincoln has 252 stores in those markets, which it says account for 90 percent of luxury sales.

The remaining 400 stores in smaller markets must spend about $500,000 for one DC charger and four Level 2s. Dealerships that make the investment required for their market will be allowed to sell an unlimited number of EVs.

Dealers have until Dec. 15 to make a decision on the EV certification program, which will run from late 2024 until 2026. Another enrollment period will open near the end of 2026 and start in 2027.

Those who choose not to opt in can maintain their franchise selling only gasoline models.

Sprague said every Lincoln dealer has the opportunity to opt in and that the brand doesn’t have a set number it hopes will do so. The brand doesn’t plan to follow Cadillac and Buick by offering buyouts to dealers who don’t want to invest in EV chargers, he said.

“It’s time for us to make changes in terms of how we go to market,” he said. “Our retailers are a strategic advantage in all this.”

The requirements come about three years after the brand relaunched its Lincoln Commitment Program, requiring dealers with both Ford and Lincoln stores in its top 130 markets to invest in standalone Lincoln showrooms. Currently, Lincoln has roughly 80 standalone stores either open or in the works, according to a spokesperson.

Brand executives, however, argue that the money Lincoln has asked its dealers to spend on new facilities has been worthwhile, noting that those stores have stronger sales now.

“It’s introduced them to another level of luxury clients they weren’t getting before,” Greg Wood, manager, sales and service at Lincoln, told Automotive News. “They see that pathway; this is the next phase. We all have to go though this transition and change as the industry is evolving to electrify its products.”

Peter Spina Jr., general manager at Lincoln of Wayne in New Jersey, recently renovated one showroom and is preparing to open a second standalone store in nearby Ramsey. The third-generation dealer said he plans to invest the $900,000 at his stores and views it as key to future success.

“These vehicles are coming, our industry is changing,” he said in an interview. “If you’re going to stay the course in the automotive space, you’ll be investing in some sort of EV infrastructure. You need to have the ability to service your guests and your own vehicles. I don’t think there are many engaged dealers who would say it’s not a necessity.”

Even though Lincoln doesn’t have any EVs yet, Spina said he’s been encouraged by strong sales of the Corsair and Aviator plug-in hybrids.

The brand has promised to launch three EVs globally by 2025 and add a fourth in 2026. Executives say they expect almost 90 percent of Lincoln’s volume in North America to be fully electric by 2030.

“Although we don’t have a vehicle on the ground, we know they’re coming,” Spina said. “I think you have to do it in this way. I don’t think you can bring the vehicles out and then try to chase the infrastructure.”

Michael Martinez

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