Dianne Craig, Lincoln's new president, has her work cut out for her. Combating a stalled brand revival, she is working on updating the product line, shrinking Lincoln's dealer network, and developing an electrification strategy. Yet despite these challenges and stagnating sales, she believes Lincoln will grow again.
"We have to get our mojo back," said Craig while in New York to introduce the redesigned Nautilus. "It's really very straightforward — great products, great service. That will define the future of the brand."
Gallery: 2024 Lincoln Nautilus
Part of Craig's plan to improve service is to reduce the number of dealerships in the US market, focusing on brand-exclusive facilities to provide a premium experience. According to Automotive News' annual dealer census, Lincoln had 637 dealers at the beginning of 2023, including 145 standalone locations.
Craig declined to provide a target for the ideal number of dealers. Still, she indicated it could be around 350, the approximate number of dealers signed up for Lincoln's electric vehicle certification program. She also noted that the automaker is working with dealers in the top 120 markets to invest in single-brand showrooms. As for the remaining dealerships, she indicated Lincoln would work with them personally to address their needs.
"I've had many conversations with dealers over the last four months, many that are my personal friends, that don't want to give up the brand because they love the brand," Craig said. "But ... if there's not an industry there to serve, does it really make sense for them to go on this next evolution with the investments they'll have to make for EV? Or just focus on Ford? We want to do the right thing for them as business partners."
Lincoln has spent most of the past 20 years working to revitalize the brand's image. Those efforts paid off as sales peaked at 112,000 vehicles in 2019. However, a combination of an increasingly crowded luxury market, with new players like Genesis and premium EV brands, including Tesla, Lucid, and Rivian, has led to declining sales since then, falling to 83,686 units last year.