The day after the Nov. 2 election, Greg C. Smith, Ford Motor Co.'s president of the Americas, wore cufflinks sporting the U.S. presidential seal.
Smith explains former President George H. W. Bush gave him the cufflinks after a 2003 Ford dealer gathering in California. The elder Bush was the event's guest of honor.
“The first thing he said when he arrived at the reception was, ‘Are any Texas dealers here?’” recalls Smith who spent some quality time at dinner with the 41st president.
“He was to speak to the dealers the next day, and he said, ‘My wife Barbara is with me on this trip. Could she come to the session tomorrow?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? Heck yes.’ They both took questions from the audience. She got more questions.”
A question for Smith: Was Ford's Blue Oval dealer certification program worth it?
After all, Blue Oval sparked dealer discontent when it was introduced in 2000. It caused a drop in dealer satisfaction with the auto maker until Ford revised it. Now many dealers are displeased that Ford is scaling back on the program's financial incentives.
“Was Blue Oval worth it? Interesting question,” says Smith. “From a relationship point of view, you could point to metrics that dealer satisfaction went down. But the flip side — and I give dealers the credit for this — is that customer satisfaction improved dramatically.”
He says dealers are consulted on the latest revisions to the Blue Oval program and on virtually any other major issue facing Ford.
That's as it should be, he says. “Dealers are individual business people whose net worth is on the line.”