In my 40-year automotive career, I've seen a lot of models and brand come and go.
I suffered in 1980 and 1981 with a Chrysler franchise and all the problems that went along with a down economy and a bad product.
I've seen Ford dealers stand fast through hard times and now enjoy representing a healthy brand.
I've witnessed the perseverance of Buick dealers and their employees that hung in there. It now looks like Buick will survive to be one of strongest 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 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 and motivate their people.
They have the sales managers that continue to show their people 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.
I recently went to a classic car show in my hometown of Orange Park, FL. A well-mannered and well-dressed young man approach me.
Without being intrusive, he handed me his business card and said, “I noticed you looking at primarily the Ford and GM classic cars. If I can help you with any transportation needs please let me know.”
I watched this young man as he would stand and watch people and what they were looking at and then approach them in a professional manner. When I looked at the card, it identified him as 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 colleagues complaining about traffic being off, he was, out there generating business for a dealer and a brand that he believed in.
I had the privilege of meeting with Lincoln people a few years ago at a National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention to discuss a program to assist them in getting out of aging used-car inventory.
However one of the executives that I met with informed me their priority was trying to move and relocate Ford employees that had been caught up in the cutback and that used vehicles would have to be on the back burner.
That told me Lincoln dealers should go to the powers that be and tell them what they want.
Nobody knows better what the public asks for than the sales people and sales managers who work the deals. They hear about the products they are competing against.
It's time for you to wake them up and tell them what you want. Ford is spending $1 billion in to develop a new generation of Lincoln vehicles. Dealers should have a say in that product development.
What you need to do with your factory is what you have done for yourself. Prove that no matter how tough it is, you're on the black top, not in the back drop. I have no doubt that you will prevail because you have weathered the hail.
Tim Deese is a used-car expert and heads Progresssive Basics Inc.