Lincoln is changing the way it sells cars (for the better)
Tucked inside an open-air shopping complex in Scottsdale, Arizona, among various trendy stores, is something that one would have hilariously thought out of place not too long ago: a Lincoln dealership. . But it’s not just any old dealership, Lincoln or otherwise. This would be the Sanderson Lincoln store, the first of its kind for Ford’s luxury brand.
Step through the large glass doors and you are greeted by a 2022 Navigator to your right, a 2022 Aviator Grand Touring straight ahead and to your left, a spacious cafe-bar. Vintage promotional images from Lincoln’s mid-century glory years line the walls, which is a treat for anyone who loves this automotive era. There are smaller seating areas elsewhere, including one encased in glass presumably for discussing a sale more privately, but the overall vibe is reminiscent of an airplane lounge. There are no sales people either: those on site are salaried product specialists who are paid the same whether you buy a car or not. Oh, and the baristas, there to brew caffeine for free whether you buy a car or not. This seems like a recipe for being popular with teenagers, but I digress.
Lincoln plans to open more such stores, but the decision to establish this one was made by an individual dealer, Sanderson Lincoln, with Lincoln’s full support. And according to Lincoln President Joy Falotico, these boutiques and their car buying model could complement the sweeping changes that are already happening elsewhere in car buying.
In short, the ongoing supply shortage should change everything. Customers not only get used to waiting for cars, but also to order them and thus get exactly what they want. This is where the shops come in. At the same time, Lincoln and its dealers see the value in not keeping huge inventories of cars that will end up being discounted or enticed. Yes, that means being able to maintain higher prices, which is an important part of that, but it also means that they will deliver the cars that customers actually want.
“We have no intention of going back to the old model of (overabundant) dealer inventory,” Falotico said definitively.
She explained that moving to a model where customers increasingly order their cars could increase build possibilities and customization opportunities.
“We always thought people liked packages, but do they?” Falotico thought aloud, adding that product planners are simply offering their best educated estimate of what customers will inevitably want in terms of fitment, colors, and build mix of these variations. Bundling features together is one way to reduce complexity and cost, but it increases the chances that a customer will be forced to get features they don’t really need or want.
Moving to a model where customers order their cars more frequently would therefore allow customers to actually get what they want, while increasing, as Falotico suggested, the number of options available to them. And yes, it would reduce the amount of junk inventory languishing on dealer lots. It is assumed that this would also reduce the space needed to park everything.
Car ordering is not new and is in fact the way it is largely done in Europe. Although some retailers and brands make it easier than others (especially the European ones), you’ve pretty much always been able to do it – if you have the patience to wait and know you can do it in the first place. .
Several Autoblog Editors have ordered cars over the years and gotten a discount almost every time, including myself with a 2007 Acura TSX (Electric Blue! Manual!) and a 2017 Mercedes GLC for my mom (Designo Red! Leather Chestnut !). These builds simply didn’t exist on dealer lots, but with a little patience, we got exactly what we wanted. Now, the discount is largely due to the fact that we represent an auto sale and dealer-only car that is guaranteed not to languish in the lot and therefore lose money. Certainly, this element would change if ordering cars and reducing inventory became more common.
As for Sanderson Lincoln Boutique and others like them, Tesla was the first to really push in this direction largely thanks to its direct-to-consumer model that bypasses traditional dealers. It’s certainly a shopping environment that modern consumers are used to, and even the prospect of paying MSRP and not negotiating a discount (if that’s how things ultimately turn out) doesn’t seem like a concept. revolutionary foreigner. It’s not like we go to the Apple Store and start haggling with the guy in the blue T-shirt about the price of an iPhone. Really, it’s the traditional process of buying a car that’s the weird outlier now, not a “boutique” experience like this.
Plus, car buyers inevitably already use Build Your Own configurators on brand websites – wouldn’t it be great if they could actually buy the exact car they’re building virtually? It’s quite rare. I could easily see this resulting in more colorful car selections as I know from discussions with Porsche that custom orders are much more likely to be colors as opposed to the standard black white gray usually linked to dealer lots. I could also see average transaction prices drop a bit, because customers wouldn’t have to buy heavily optional trim levels just to get a particular color or unrelated option. I could also see some new features, especially infotainment and driver assistance technologies, start to disappear as car buyers choose not to buy something they don’t understand, which they don’t haven’t heard of or lived happily ever after for decades.
Well, that’s if that change happens at all. The big question is whether American car buyers will really be willing to wait for what they want rather than get something close right away. And will dealerships hold their ground or go back to filling their acreage with better quality inventory in order to easily “get you in that car today” and definitely guarantee a sale? I think the answer probably lies in how long these shortages last, but to hear Falotico talk, it sure sounds like Lincoln is going to at least get by. Yes, it will be good for the company’s business, but I also think it’s good for car buyers as well.