A Ford Blue Oval court battle goes on, promoted by nine Ford dealer plaintiffs who are undeterred by two federal district court judges' rulings favoring Ford Motor Co.
The case heads to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia despite Ford abandoning a controversial pricing formula used to reward certified dealers since Blue Oval's introduction in 2000 as a way to enhance customer satisfaction.
As of April 1, Ford has instituted cash incentives ranging from $75 to $125 per vehicle sold for dealers meeting or surpassing fixed volume targets. Those incentives replace a formula by which Blue Oval dealer bonuses were 1.25% of suggested retail prices multiplied by vehicle sales totals. Opponents called that unfair, unequal and illegal pricing.
Says Michelle Van Vorst, manager of the Ford Dealers Alliance: “Even though the lower court judges dismissed the suit on the grounds the plaintiffs did not show they were substantially injured by the way Blue Oval works, there is no question the program favors large-volume dealers and can be extremely and unfairly costly to small-market dealers…We couldn't let the situation go on without exhausting our court options.”
Ford urges the appeals court to uphold the two district court rulings.
Judge Joseph Greenaway says the plaintiffs have not suffered “a concrete and particularized injury.” Judge John Bissell says his court lacks jurisdiction.
Ford says 90% of its dealers are Blue Oval-certified (including eight of the nine plaintiffs) and the plaintiffs “never provided evidence of a single instance in which any appellant (or any other Ford dealer) has been terminated for any reason related to the Blue Oval program.”
The plaintiffs say Blue Oval participation is involuntary and certification and re-certification costs far exceed Blue Oval bonuses and benefits.
Besides lead plaintiff Danvers (MA) Motor Co., other dealerships involved are: Bob Chambers Ford, Augusta, ME; Concord Ford-Lincoln Mercury, Newark, NY; Fette Ford, Clifton, NJ; Senator Ford, Sacramento, CA; Roseville Midway Ford, Roseville, MN; Fullers' White Mountain Motors, Show Low, AZ; Condon Ford, Moville, IA, and Tilton Ford, Tilton, NH.