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Ford plans dealer network shake up

By Richard Yarrow

Ford is planning to shake up its UK dealer network in the next few years with a raft of changes, including the loss of up to 10% of its current sites.

The news was revealed by Mark Ovenden, MD and chairman of Ford of Britain, who said brand’s traditional attitude – one of “if in doubt, put a dealership in” – was changing.

He explained: “We’re not looking to do what Renault did, but now it’s the opposite to that. The network size will reduce over time.”

Currently Ford has 550 points of representation nationwide, and Ovenden said in the next three to four years a maximum of 10% will go, mostly by natural attrition.

“It’s in part because so much of what a customer historically has done in a dealership can now be done online. We still have to satisfy sales and service needs locally and we know that if you take a dealership away and tell people they have to go somewhere else they often won’t, but it’s about getting the right balance.”

Also likely to change is the new vehicle handover process.

Ovenden explained: “The customer wants to take the car away and start to enjoy it, while the salesman wants to explain all its different functions.

"So we’re experimenting with a three-stage process – the sale, the handover and a ‘come back to me if you have any questions’ element.”

He said Ford was also considering “letting the technology explain the technology”, which many consumer gadgets now do.

Meanwhile, a new concept called Consumer Experience Movement is to be trialled in a handful of UK dealerships after it has been judged a success in North America.

Part of the ‘One Ford’ plan to support best practice globally, the idea is that staff who are more engaged with the dealership are also more engaged with the customer. It will include a dealership survey to identify site issues so people feel more motivated.

Ovenden said that while dealer profitability had increased recently, the company was keen to address the aftermarket component specifically, acknowledging that it was declining.

Last month Ford launched a new capped-price servicing and maintenance initiative for older vehicles called Motorcraft 4+, and Ovenden confirmed where would be more to follow as part of its older vehicle strategy.

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  • Yorkshire Milly - 11/11/2013 14:13

    Once GREAT but like Marks and Spencer they thought they knew better. Too much interference within the Dealerships downgraded free thinkers who knew how to drive a competitive market. Customer was King. Ego got in the way and when Ford announced that they had their own DNA the rot really had set in. Ford was always product led but others took their crown and Mondeo Man was driven out by better, quality, product from Ford Competitors. They say less is more and maybe Mr Ovenden is right, lets hope so for the sake of all the Ford Dealers who have, over many many years, invested large amounts of Capital for very little return.

  • c u jimmy - 11/11/2013 16:35

    Roger Humm would be perplexed at this news.

  • whats going on. - 12/11/2013 17:12

    ford retail going through the NI Dealer network like a dose of salts, salesmen ( old and young ) jumping ship

  • ABC123 - 13/11/2013 11:44

    While they're at it, they need to revamp the dated 90's look of that odd aluminium Dealership styling. Feels like sitting in a warehouse, except when combined with a salesperson that is not listening, and trying to push finance at 16% APR, even more miserable.

  • WERTY - 14/11/2013 01:08

    Forget all this crap, its price and discount that sells unless they get the product more reliable. Problems creep in when warranty expires and they don't want to know - even if its a common fault like power steering failure, dangerous and you lose the customer forever. How many C.D.s go wrong after 2 years as they are only covered for 1 year. A customer only wants gadgets if they continue to WORK.

  • Mr Quick - 19/11/2013 12:49

    I've been out of the Ford dealer network for 7 years (retired) this is my first visit to the AM site since ( I used to get a hard copy ) Mark Ovenden he's done ok I thought Andy Barrett would have had this job by now, however it's still the same old Ford tinkering they introduced the CMA what did that achieve we had the something 2000 meetings and nonsense sessions where we all had to bond with our teams.Ford why don't you just get back to producing good cars and equipment this seems to be a problem, and let the dealers sell and repair the cars, since you started all this you've lost market share and you still tick off the dealer network