Ford of Britain managing director Roelant de Waard told AM: "We plan to grow our retail side further this year and reduce short-cycle fleet business again. We also have new products with the Kuga and the challenge will be to make it incremental sales, not substitute volume.
"Dealers will have to invest in additional sales capacity to ensure this happens."
Dealer profits have risen in 2007 and new cars have accounted for a growing proportion, up from 18% in 2006 to 25% of profits. Ford says this is due to a swing from smaller vehicle sales towards larger cars and light commercials, a shift in the model mix towards higher trim levels and the move to longer cycle fleet business and retail sales. Retail car is up this year by 3% to 133,740 units – 41% of Ford’s total sales.
Ford expects 2007 overall volumes – cars and vans – to be up on 2006 by around 8,000, to around 444,000 units. Volumes are forecast to rise 7% in 2007.
Helping to grow sales will be an expanded retail dealer network. By March this year, Ford will have added 10 dealers to that network, mostly family-run businesses in market town locations, taking it to 225.
Two have already been appointed – Brakes of Ilminster and Cupar Ford. It has 50 candidates interested in the other 38 open points.
Under the cost-cutting and growth programme Project 50, Ford is looking to improve the warranty administration process, which de Waard calls “overly cumbersome”.
He added: “We are developing diagnostics processes so we have an automated process. This is being piloted on certain repairs and the programme will be accelerated during 2008.”
The workshop diagnostic equipment will issue an authority code to pay the warranty claim in addition to repair instructions.
It will remove the need for workshop technicians/managers to call Ford, potentially saving 350 calls per day, each lasting around 10 minutes.
A further focus for 2008 will be improving aftersales retention rates. From 2003 to 2006, the network raised retention rates for cars within warranty by 12 percentage points, but Ford is looking for improvements in the four to seven-year age range. The UK is around five per cent behind the other main European markets.
Project 50 successes this year include developing a stable marketing programme by enabling dealers to tailor offers to customers. It means sales staff do not have to keep relearning the sales incentives programmes.
Ford has also introduced needs-based training centred on product, brand and skills, the Blue Oval Club for parts supply to independents and same-day parts delivery for franchised dealers.