Last week we heard about Ford’s plans to close Ford, Mercury and Lincoln dealerships in 18 metropolitan areas as part of its Way Forward restructuring plan. Given the automaker’s current financial straits, it makes sense to trim its 4,300 dealers — especially since many stores came at a time when Ford sold many more vehicles than it does today.
The looming question: What happens to Ford owners — and potential buyers — when their local dealer gets canned?
Ford spokesman Jim Cain said impact on consumers would be minimal because most of the cuts would come in areas with multiple Ford-brand dealers.
“It shouldn’t hurt consumers at all — in fact, it should benefit consumers,” Cain said. “[A dealer] who has sustained profitability across the cycle is going to have better services they can offer. And that helps improve customer satisfaction.”
Not everyone shares that optimism. Jeff Bartlett, an online editor at Consumer Reports, said Ford might lose customers to other brands — not just new-car shoppers, but also those looking to have their vehicles serviced.
Still, he agreed with Cain that dealers who emerge on the other side will see better times. If things go according to plan, Bartlett said Ford faithful could look forward to fewer slow-selling vehicles, better residual values and more attractive lease offers.
While Ford might not have as many dealers, there are reasons to be confident that Ford, Mercury and Lincoln owners will still have a place to service their cars — if not at independent shops, then at sister brand dealerships.
We called dealers from all three makes in Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami to see if they could service each other’s cars. For the most part, all were confident they could.
A few models might require specialized equipment, like a heavy-duty Ford F-Series pickup or stretched Lincoln Town Car limo, and service representatives conceded that owners of those vehicles might best be served at their home shop. But those were the exceptions.
Said one mechanic, who requested anonymity: “The general rule of thumb is if it’s a Ford, Lincoln or Mercury product, they can bring it into any Ford or Lincoln-Mercury store.”