Eyes of Ford Dealers On New F-150 Launch

Following news that Ford Motor Co.'s redesigned '04 F-150 will cost between $245 and $635 more than the outgoing truck, the eyes of Ford dealers are on the production launch. Ford's redesigned F-150 stickers from $21,215 to $35,570. As long as everything works, pricing is secondary, says Chris Fox, new-car sales manager at Larry H. Miller Super Ford in Salt Lake City. No launch is more important than

Following news that Ford Motor Co.'s redesigned '04 F-150 will cost between $245 and $635 more than the outgoing truck, the eyes of Ford dealers are on the production launch.

Ford's redesigned F-150 stickers from $21,215 to $35,570.

“As long as everything works, pricing is secondary,” says Chris Fox, new-car sales manager at Larry H. Miller Super Ford in Salt Lake City.

“No launch is more important than this one,” adds Jerry Reynolds, owner of Prestige Ford in Garland, TX.

Ford Div. President Steve Lyons says the production ramp-up at plants in Norfolk, VA, and Kansas City is on track. The new F-150 is expected to reach showrooms in late summer or early fall.

Reynolds, past president of Ford's dealer council, says he and others were prepared for higher price hikes, given the additional features offered on the new truck.

Meanwhile, Ford is confident its margins won't be compromised by the richer content.

“We do believe this pricing is going to deliver all of the program revenue commitments and profits to the company that we had planned,” says Lyons.

Enhancements such as outboard rear shocks for improved stability and a tailgate assist feature reportedly added more than $1,000 to the cost of building the new vehicle. Ford acknowledges there are added costs, but doesn't confirm numbers.

The auto maker also declines comment on pre-tax profit-per-vehicle, which — according to one report — was expected to decline next year by about $1,000 to $5,071.

The new truck, available in five trim levels, stickers from $21,215 to $35,570. But buyers can expect monthly payment increases in the $20 range, Ford says.

Ford doesn't rule out the prospect of incentives but warns against expecting the aggressive variety currently peppering the market.

The relatively modest price increase is important on several levels, Reynolds says, not the least of which is customer connection.

“This means that the loyal Ford buyers out there can afford this truck,” he tells Ward's, adding that dealers also can expect a significant uptick in fleet sales.

Not national fleets, Reynolds says, but “mom-and-pop” businesses that operate a few dozen vehicles. They will be attracted by F-150's new roomier cabs, he predicts, all of which have four doors.

Equally important is the message Ford sends to its dealers — that the auto maker is “serious about volume.”

Ford doesn't reveal its volume target, but Lyons has said there is the potential to sell 1 million units. In years past, the auto maker has come close but never matched this number for its F-Series pickups — the best-selling truck in the U.S. for 26 years and the best-selling vehicle for 21 years.

Reynolds points to last year's launch of the redesigned Ford Expedition and the 2001 rollout of the new Ford Thunderbird as examples of seamless ramp-ups. They featured a “batch-and-hold” sequence that helped sort out problems before the vehicles were delivered, he says.

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