By Rachel Pritchett
Detroit has pulled the plug on the Thomas Lincoln Mercury dealership in Bremerton.
The owner and president of the dealership will sell used cars on the lot instead.
“It comes right from Detroit,” owner Aaron Capps said of the decision. “They’ve been after the franchise for the last two years.”
The dealership was selling an average of fewer than 10 Lincolns and Mercurys combined in a month.
“It’s a sad situation, but reality is reality, and that’s what we have to live with,” Capps said.
When he lost the franchise, Capps he was faced with a decision to close or turn to selling used cars. With 76 total employees, he chose to stay open and keep handing out paychecks.
“Everybody keeps their job and we continue to grow,” Capps said.
The decision doesn’t affect nearby Advantage Nissan, which Capps also owns. New cars will continue to be sold there.
Capps is optimistic about the used-car market in this recession, and also about eventually expanding with sons Chuck and Dean into new selling opportunities, such as cars from China and India, and electric cars.
Meanwhile, he figures he can offer as many as 400 used cars.
Thomas Lincoln Mercury has been around since 1955. It was started by Bud Thomas at Sixth Street and Pacific Avenue in downtown Bremerton, then moved to a location closer to the shipyard. It moved to Auto Center Boulevard in 1971. Capps purchased Thomas Lincoln Mercury in 1981, keeping the Thomas name and the reputation that went along with it.
Last week, some 3,600 customers — some longtime ones — received letters announcing the change. The new used-car lot will be called Advantage Used Car and Truck Center.
Capps and his crew no longer will be able to do work covered by a vehicle warranty, but arrangements have been made with other dealerships to have the warranty work done.
“We don’t want any of our customers to be inconvenienced whatsoever. You bring it to us; we’ll take care of it,” he said, adding his crew still can do service work.
According to Automotive News, there were only 357 stand-alone Lincoln-Mercury dealerships in the United States last year.
Capps said that sales and service of cars from Thomas Lincoln Mercury only accounted for about 15 percent of his total car business, in the end.
He said that while his Mercury buyers tended to be local residents, buyers of Lincolns were transient military people or older snowbirds who went south in the winter.
His best-selling Lincoln was the Town Car, no longer made. The most popular Mercury in his three decades of business was the Sable, also no longer being made.
No new Lincolns or Mercurys are on the lot, and the changeover to used cars takes effect as soon as the sign goes up.
By Rachel Pritchett