Roelant de Waard says the five-year programme has simplified marketing programmes and claims processes, and has now started to tackle standards, reporting, training, stocking and demonstrator schemes.
“These are areas identified by both Ford and our dealers,” de Waard says. “We have simplified the front end with the sales force, now we are looking at the back end and how we can translate that into admin savings.”
Reporting requirements have been diluted, for instance. Instead of every dealer having to report sales figures every Monday, Ford now takes a sample from around 10% of the network. It’s representative enough to be accurate, and saves dealers time and admin costs.
De Waard also points to a reorganization of training. Replacing the one-size-fits-all policy that forced all dealers to undergo every course is a needs-based training procedure.
Dealers identify shortcomings in their business and take appropriate action, rather than having a blanket approach forced on them. Ford is also committing to more on-site training.
Ford has also stopped dictating terms on demonstrators. It still requires a minimal number to be held, but dealers now have greater flexibility to take on the cars they need. And it has softened its approach to stocking levels, which are now in the low 50 days.
Project 50 was set up earlier this year to save Ford retailers £50m in reduced costs over a five-year period. And while dealer margins still fall short of the 2%-plus return on sales target, de Waard says the network performance is “at least that of last year” in a difficult, fleet-dominated market.
Ford’s attempt to address problem areas with its retail network is having a positive impact on its market share. For the first time in 10 years, Ford is ahead year-to-date on both retail and fleet.
De Waard puts much of the success down to the carmaker’s improving relationship with its retail network. “We have had intense dialogue with them – we are listening to them rather than dictating strategy,” he says.
New product has also helped, including the freshened Fiesta and new S-Max.