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On the Point

No Do-Overs

Although there’s no such thing as a do-over in the car business, ‘Da Man’ believes Ford has a real opportunity to correct some recent mishaps — maybe even breathe new life into its Lincoln marque.

February 6, 2014

Everyone lives with regrets, regardless of who they are and how they lived their life. And what makes regrets difficult to live with is we can never know how things would have turned out if we had chosen differently.

Since I was a little kid, I’ve always been fascinated with time travel. I mean, imagine if we could go back in time and alter history and possibly change the outcome. Could I have warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the Pearl Harbor attack? Maybe I could have prevented the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Well, if I could go back in time, I can guarantee I would’ve talked Ron Zarella, General Motors’ former president of North America, out of building the Pontiac Aztek.

I’m also sure I would have found someone at Ford with enough common sense not to promote Jacques Nasser to a position of authority. I’d also travel back to talk myself out of that first marriage. In fact, I can think of at least 50 things I’d like to do over.

Looking back over the 25 years I have been writing articles and columns in national industry publications, I often wonder what would have happened if the industry had listened to my advice and heeded some of my warnings and predictions. I am far from infallible, but I challenge you to find anyone in our industry with a better track record when it comes to predictions. The reason I’ve been so accurate, as I’ve said over the years, is not because I’m smart, but because other people were so stupid.

Lately, my blogs, articles and speeches have been focused on what’s going on with Ford Motor Co. Over the last five or six years, I have been Ford’s biggest cheerleader. Alan Mulally, Mark Fields and Jim Farley are still some of my biggest corporate heroes. That hasn’t changed, but I am having some reservations about the paths they’re taking with their dealers and the product. Botched launches and quality issues aren’t in line with Ford’s “Quality is Job 1” mantra. I mean, haven’t we all seen enough press conferences with Fields promising to do better next time?

Heck, we’re still waiting for the 14 new models Lincoln dealers were promised when they killed off Mercury. And redesigning Fusions and rebadging them as Lincolns doesn’t count.

Recently, I expressed grave concern about the future of the Lincoln franchise and the path the manufacturer is taking. The dealers upgraded their facilities, put up the cash and jumped through every hoop. Now it’s time for the manufacturer to make good on its promises. Instead, the OEM comes out with a “Black Label Collection,” a supposed premium, ultra-exclusive model line that only select dealers will be able to see and service.

But Ford isn’t stopping there. Now it’s asking dealers to pump into their nearly vacant showrooms the new “The Lincoln Essence,” a scent the automaker calls “the smell of luxury.” Apparently, this scent, which is supposed to smell like a blend of Earl Grey tea, jasmine and orange flowers, is supposed to be a buying aphrodisiac that will mesmerize consumers. No, this isn’t joke; it’s really happening. This idea smells like something, but it ain’t luxury.

Despite all this insanity, the diagnosis for Lincoln is not terminal, as there’s a chance for a full recovery. But Ford and Lincoln better realize pretty quickly there’s no such thing as a do-over.

Ford’s recent unveiling of it new Mustang and its expected spring launch of the Lincoln MK represent a real chance for the company to get it right. And it better not blow it. Now that the dealers have done their part, there are no excuses.

I was excited to see that Ford didn’t abandon the Mustang’s pony car heritage with its 2015 model. We expected them to begin a transition to a new world look, but the gradual evolution vs. a radical transformation is, in my opinion, brilliant. It would be nice to see this spill over to a Lincoln version. Perhaps you could call it the “Mark Ten.” But please don’t put that god-awful grill on the new product.

Well, the NADA Convention and Expo is coming up later this month. Please find me and Debbie on the convention floor. I’ll have my Alpha Dawg hat on. Of course, as I announced a few years ago, I am no longer speaking at this event. But I’ll still be there looking for some good parties to attend. Keep those phone calls and emails coming.

Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. E-mail him at jim.ziegler@bobit.com.

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Author Bio

Jim Ziegler

President & CEO of Ziegler SuperSystems

Jim 'Da Man' Ziegler joined the magazine in 2011 to deliver his On-the-Point message about the car business to dealer principals and store managers. He'll offer strategy advice on everything from sales and F&I to marketing in the digital age. Catch him every month at www.fi-magazine.com.

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