LAS VEGAS – Ford rolls out several new initiatives for retailers here, including a facilities-upgrade program dealers say will be more flexible and make better business sense.
The auto maker also is launching a revamped certified pre-owned program that will offer consumers better warranties on used cars and help dealers with financing and marketing.
Details on the showroom upgrade project are expected to be delivered in a letter within the next week, according to Jeff Carlson, a dealer in Glenwood Springs, CO, who attended the auto maker’s franchise meeting at the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention here.
The program, which Carlson says Ford is calling the “Facilities of the Future Initiative,” is more dealer-friendly and reflects some of the thinking NADA published in a report this week. In that study, the dealer group says auto makers often are forcing dealers into expensive upgrades that don’t make good business sense.
“This program will be voluntary, collaborative and there must be a business case,” Carlson says. “It’s more along the thinking NADA is interested in.
“And it is flexible,” he adds, meaning Ford won’t require all dealerships to be identical in design. “Of course, the devil will be in the details, but I’m looking forward to seeing (the plan).”
The new CPO program for used vehicles officially was launched Feb. 2 and includes special interest-rate programs and training for dealers, Ken Czubay, Ford vice president-U.S. sales and marketing, tells reporters following the meeting.
“We’re going to come out with a specific cadence to support (dealers) in marketing when we are off new-vehicle thrust months,” he adds. “There will be a cadence of new-vehicle heavy marketing, followed by CPO.”
First-year warranty coverage will be “almost double” the prior plan, Ford officials say.
“Every manufacturer has and needs a robust CPO program,” Czubay says. “It’s good for every department in the dealership. Studies have shown consumers are happier with certified pre-owned programs, and it also helps our residuals.”
Ford remains bullish on the U.S. market, predicting industry total-vehicle sales could range from 13.5 million to 14.5 million in 2012, and executives assured dealers the auto maker will be able to meet demand, including for the new Escape cross/utility vehicle and Fusion sedan coming this year.
“We’ve got two important launches coming out, the Escape and Fusion,” Czubay tells reporters later. “We are going to be there with the launch of production and with production through the year. We’re taking steps with our partners, the (United Auto Workers union) and all our suppliers, to make sure we have the appropriate production.”
With the new models coming, the Fiesta, launched in the ’11 model year, will be the oldest car in the Ford-brand’s lineup, executives note.
“We’re positioned as good as we’ve ever been in the U.S. market,” says Jim Farley, group vice president-marketing, sales and service.
Separately, Farley defends a decision to send a letter to General Motors and NBC, broadcaster of the Super Bowl, to pull a Chevy Silverado ad that casts Ford’s F-150 pickup in a negative light.
“We’ve been the leader in the truck market for 35 years,” he says. “So from an advertising standpoint, we will absolutely defend our leadership in the market.”