The dealerships have to choose between spending big on infrastructure and training or leaving the brand altogether.
59% of Lincoln's US retail dealer network has signed up for a program that will allow it to sell electric vehicles, reports Automotive News. Lincoln says that this figure comprises 356 dealers and that these dealers represent 88% of the automaker's sales volume. Of the dealers signed up, roughly 90% are in America's top 130 luxury markets.
"This gives Lincoln a robust network of retailers who have agreed to take the necessary steps to prepare for our brand's transition towards electrification and better serve our future EV clients," said a spokesperson.
At the Detroit Auto Show last year, Lincoln President Joy Falotico noted that the number of Lincoln dealers was dwindling. Those that have signed up clearly expect to be around for a long time to come, as the brand's first EVs are only expected to arrive in the middle of the decade.
To be permitted to sell Lincoln EVs, dealers inside the top 130 markets will be required to invest around $900,000 for the installation of two DC fast chargers and seven Level 2 chargers, while those in smaller markets must fork out roughly $500,000 for one DC charger and four Level 2 chargers.
Some of this money will also go to EV training, and those that opt into the program will have unlimited access to EVs they can sell, while those who do not embrace the program may eventually have no products to sell; Lincoln will electrify its entire product range by 2030.
The Lincoln EV program will begin late next year and run until 2026, while another enrollment period will open towards the end of 2026 and begin in 2027. This gives dealers time to decide if they're willing to make the leap into EV sales, having been able to see how much demand there is for Lincoln's first EVs as they become available. Some have criticized the move from Lincoln, saying that it's too soon for dealers to determine if such an investment would be prudent. But others see the wisdom of getting a headstart.
The chairman of the Lincoln National Dealer Council, Chris Poulos, told Automotive News that he falls into the latter camp: "If you start the process too late, and then there [are] delays, you're stuck and in a bad place. I do think there's some thoughtfulness that's gone into the timing. It does seem like it's early, but I can also understand what the pitfalls would be if they don't start early."
Unfortunately, those who invest in Lincoln's EV program do not get any discounts or allowances under the Ford banner. While Ford won't force dealers to choose EVs, those that wish to sell Blue Oval electrics will need to make an investment as high as $1.2 million, whether they've committed to the Lincoln EV program or not, and vice versa.
Joe Hay, president of Jim Burke Ford-Lincoln in Bakersfield, California, said, "As a West Coast dealer, I see this as the price of entry. I don't know how you could be successful in the retail environment we find ourselves in in California without being in the EV business."
For now, it seems that most of Lincoln's network of some 600 dealers is on board. All standalone dealerships have already signed up to sell the inevitable electric version of the Aviator and other future Lincoln EVs, meaning that the brand has a strong foundation for its transition. All that remains to be seen is if Lincoln's future products will be good enough to tempt Tesla buyers.