From 3D customization to a fully immersive sound system, Lincoln will pull out all the stops when it opens its new Lincoln Experience Center at The Star in Frisco.
The nearly 12,000-square-foot facility solidifies Lincoln’s partnership with the Dallas Cowboys, who has its headquarters there, and puts the freshly rebranded vehicles in front of prospective buyers who might otherwise have never thought about buying one, said Andrew Frick, Lincoln’s director of sales and service operations.
“What we really wanted to do was engage people into the Lincoln brand in a way that’s not traditional,” Frick said. “We’re going to meet people where they actually live, work, and dine.”
The Frisco location is scheduled to open in July, one year after the first Lincoln Experience Center opened in Newport Beach, California.
“We’re going to meet people where they actually live, work, and dine.”
Having a flashy, tech-heavy showroom where customers can experience the vehicles and take them for a test drive, but can’t actually buy them is new ground for a large automaker.
FOCUSING ON EXPERIENCE, NOT SALES
The concept was first pioneered by the rebellious Tesla Motors in protest to the traditional franchise dealership model. Tesla recently confirmed that it’s considering a new gallery in Southlake Town Square across from the Apple Store. The proposal goes to the Southlake City Council this month.
Tesla already has galleries at University Park Village in Fort Worth and NorthPark Center in Dallas. It also has two in Austin, two in Houston, and one in The Woodlands. Tesla recently signed a lease for a gallery in San Antonio, too.
Tesla’s Model S and X are basically iPhones on wheels so it make sense that it would emulate Apple’s sales model, said Karl Brauer, publisher at Autotrader.
“It’s a retail manifestation of what they want the car to represent,” Brauer said. “It’s clean, high-tech, organized, very personal, and human-oriented.”
Domestic luxury brands such as Lincoln and Cadillac have taken a beating as they get outpaced by European competitors such as BMW and Mercedes, Brauer said. Lincoln has fought its way back with a rebranding, including using actor Matthew McConaughey as a pitchman, but it still needs to communicate its message to consumers, Brauer said.
“They’ve had some tough times due to a lack of really compelling product over a long period of time,” Brauer said. “They now have to try harder than a brand like Mercedes or Audi.”
Location is just as important as the technology and luxury that’s in the experience centers.
“There’s a lifestyle element to premium vehicles,” Brauer said. “Some would argue that’s more important than the vehicle itself. I think a lot of car companies are looking for more experiential and personal touches.”
Besides Tesla and now Lincoln, Brauer said he doesn’t know of any other automakers who have galleries or showrooms separate from the franchise dealerships.
PUTTING TECHNOLOGY ON DISPLAY
The Lincoln Experience Center at The Star will be nearly twice the size of the one in Newport Beach, allowing the automaker to try new things.
Customers can use 3D modeling on an 84-inch, 4K resolution screen that can show the vehicle at any angle, even underneath.
“It’s state of the art, and has proven to be one of the best ways to interact with our products through the technology,” Frick said. “It’s like you were holding the camera yourself.”
Another large touchscreen allows customers to swipe through the various Black Label options that Lincoln offers. Black Label refers to the ultra high-end interior finishes, such as leathers and woods, that customers can pick for their vehicle.
“It’s state of the art and has proven to be one of the best ways to interact with our products through the technology.”
The Rebel Audio room will show off Lincoln’s premium sound system.
“It will fully immerse them and give them a real example of how the Rebel sound system was created,” Frick said.
Lincoln also will host special events at the center with artists and musicians.
“We have really put together some amazing activities that are relevant to people in the area,” Frick said.
Customers also can schedule test drives with vehicles on-site.
THE SALES PROCESS
In most states, consumers can walk into a Tesla gallery and actually custom order their vehicle and buy it with help from the staff on-site. Franchise dealer laws in Texas don’t allow carmakers to sell directly to consumers, so customers have to talk to Tesla employees in California to complete the sale.
For the third legislative session in a row, Tesla will lobby to carve out an exception to the law.
The franchise dealerships have their own powerful lobby and will fight hard against any changes.
Lincoln purposely will set up its experience center as a low-pressure atmosphere with no salespeople, just experts to help answer questions. If someone shows interest in a vehicle, Lincoln staff can connect them to the dealership of their choice.
“We set up the warm transfer on-site to dealerships that clients are interested in through video conferencing,” Frick said. “We build a relationship with people. Clients buying our vehicles are thrilled with how they are treated.”
Delivering what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth innovation, every day. Get the Dallas Innovates e-newsletter.