DALLAS – Andrew Frick, Ford’s vice president of sales, distribution and trucks, tells dealers the automaker’s battery-electric vehicle initiatives are “the starting point, not the finish line.”
The company’s “EV certification” levels require dealers to invest up to $1.5 million in training and infrastructure if they want to sell and service BEVs. Those investing in the top tier can sell unlimited BEVs at non-negotiable prices.
Ford will not allow lower-tier dealers to keep BEV inventory and will set limits on the number of those vehicles they can sell through customer ordering.
“We spent a lot of a lot of time today with our dealers talking about the growth plans…and how we can work with our dealers very closely to build the right infrastructure, the right processes,” he tells Wards after a closed-door meeting with dealers near the 2023 NADA Show. “We have the dialogue about how to work with them to make things practical, and we are focused on costs and providing the best customer experience.”
Frick (below, left) says certification doesn’t make sense for all dealers due to customer preferences, but adds they can change their decision within the next three years. He also notes Ford will continue to produce internal-combustion vehicles alongside BEVs.
Ford’s certification-level plan is controversial. The automaker reportedly faces legal challenges from dealers in New York, Arkansas and Illinois, contending the certification initiatives violate franchise laws. State dealer associations and lawmakers also have spoken out against the automaker’s programs.
Although Frick does not speak directly about the backlash, he notes the automaker wants to partner with dealers and have them understand the rationale behind the new certification programs.
“We’re trying some new things with modeling because obviously there are infrastructure shortages,” he says. “Then there’s a higher level of training that we’re going to be doing for dealers. This (BEV adoption) is a new, emerging industry and we need our dealers to be extremely well trained.”
Overall, Frick says he left dealers with the message of growth and how the manufacturer plans to continue it in 2023 despite falling prices, rising costs of battery raw materials and a possible recession. He says the automaker’s retail and total market share grew by 0.8 of a point in 2022.
“We talked about many initiatives that we want to build on to continue that growth into 2023. Production is improving; inventories are growing. So we’ve discussed where we want to set our inventory levels at and manage our business as we move forward, but also acknowledge the fact that the pricing environment is changing dramatically.”