LOS ANGELES – Lincoln is amping up customer-experience efforts with assorted pilot programs that include month-to-month vehicle leasing and a setup that allows customers to purchase a vehicle without visiting a dealership.

Ford’s luxury auto brand also is partnering with the company CLEAR to expedite airport and arena security clearance for Lincoln buyers by offering them complimentary membership for up to a year. That program begins in January.

At an event held in conjunction with this city’s annual auto show, Lincoln President Kumar Galhotra goes down the list of wow-’em initiatives centered on the customer experience.

CLEAR delivers expedited security clearance to more than 30 airports and arenas nationwide. Members go to a dedicated security lane. The clearing process typically takes minutes. Lincoln was attracted to the time-saving aspect of it.

In various customer surveys, “time comes up a lot,” says Galhotra in describing consumer impatience with long waits during the car-buying process and life in general.

Lincoln also is expanding its pilot Lincoln Personal Driver service to Dallas, the country’s sixth-largest luxury market.  

The brand launched that service last year in Miami and San Diego. It was first called Lincoln Chauffeur, but Galhotra says that name was dropped “because it didn’t fully describe the service.” Starting at $30 an hour, it provides drivers to transport Lincoln owners around in their own vehicles or use them to run errands.

“Research shows us that luxury customers are using services like Lincoln Personal Driver in their daily lives,” said Galhotra. “We take it one step further by allowing our owners to use this service with their own vehicle, on their own time and for a number of tasks to make their experience as effortless as possible.”

In another customer-catering program, Lincoln currently is working with 10 select dealers in a “Lincoln Way” test program that allows consumers to buy a Lincoln without ever visiting a dealership (although Galhotra says they always are welcome there).

Participating dealers deliver demo cars to customers who can drive them for 24 to 48 hours on their own. “We’re confident enough in the product to do that,” Galhotra says.

If customers after that extended test drive opt to buy a vehicle, a dealership salesperson will go to their home or business to complete the transaction. Lincoln is aiming for “an effortless sales process,” Galhotra says. 

An existing customer-experience project that has lived up to the automaker’s expectations is the pick-up and delivery of customer vehicles that are taken to a dealership for service.

A Lincoln service valet picks up a client’s vehicle at any location, provides a complimentary Lincoln loaner vehicle and returns the owner’s freshly washed vehicle once service is complete.

Launched late last year, the program has had “more than 60,000 experiences and has been incredibly successful,” Galhotra says, adding that many people who use the service “have become real brand advocates” in recommending Lincoln to family and friends.

He credits dealers for “playing a key role in helping to deliver this suite of services, enabling Lincoln to distinguish itself in a crowded marketplace.” 

Lincoln bills itself as the only luxury automaker to offer such a standard service nationally on all ’17 and newer vehicles.

Beginning early next year, Lincoln also plans to launch a vehicle subscription service pilot in California. It enables clients to select a month-to-month vehicle subscription that includes insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance and vehicle pickup and delivery.

Building on the early learnings from Ford Credit’s Canvas subscription service that launched in May, the Lincoln program will incorporate the same technology.

Lincoln hasn’t announced how much the monthly leasing will cost, but it will be under $400, says Robert Parker, Lincoln’s director-global marketing, sales and service.  

The program serves two purposes. First, it allows people so inclined to get in different vehicles on a regular basis. Second, it allows customers to test various vehicles before settling on one they like the most for a longer-term lease or outright purchase, Parker says. “We want to reinvent leasing.” 

sfinlay@wardsauto.com