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It will pay Ford dealers to look after buyers

Under the pump: Ford franchisees will have a greater contol of their dealerships with a new approach to the market.

The end of the Falcon is not the only major change in the life of Ford dealers

Ford logo16 Aug 2013

WHILE much of the attention paid to Ford recently here has been about its Australian plant closures and the wave of new imported models, a key part of the so-called ‘One Ford’ transformation will be an increased accent on dealer performance.

Like its manufacturing network and its approach to the market, Ford has overhauled the dealership role in a way that will give local dealers greater influence over their own fates.

But the company will not be implementing the same old “volume is king” policies which can lead to a heavy-handed approach and plenty of dealer friction.

Key to the new approach is a different sort of incentive scheme, which will no longer be based on a dealer’s sales volumes.

Now, Ford dealers will get incentive payments based on their customer satisfaction ratings.

This reality was reflected in the speech given by Ford chief executive Alan Mulally during his surprise visit to Sydney.

“We are continuing to enhance our sales and service experience focusing on serving our retail customers offering the most comprehensive customer care in Australia,” he said.

And, while that might sound like many promises made by many car company executives in the past, Ford has put customer satisfaction at the core of its operations. The dealers have to rate well on customer satisfaction.

“There’s a definite change in business habits to go with (One Ford). There’s an incentive based program,” said one dealer at Ford’s ‘Go Further’ briefing this week.

“The incentives are there if you achieve certain levels of customer satisfaction. They’re putting the customer first and the incentive is there if you achieve the target level of customer satisfaction,” said the Queensland dealer, who asked not to be named.

He said that, while customer satisfaction ratings are fairly common in the industry, Ford had now given the issue its highest priority.

Ford Australia president Bob Graziano backed up his US president.

“The next destination on our journey of change is to deliver our most comprehensive customer after-care experience, respecting our customer’s right to an ownership and care experience that shows how much we value them from the very first interaction.” The Queensland dealer said he thought it would not be easy to manage the sort of transformation Ford is looking to achieve.

“They know there is going to be some hardship on their side, and some hardship definitely on the dealer side, but in the end there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“At the end of the day, they have increased their brand 60 per cent in America and also dealer profitability 10 times.” He said the company also needed to spend money to improve its image in the minds of the public.

“Ford has identified they have issues with their brand. They have identified that shutting manufacturing down causes further issues with their brand.

“I think they have come out (today) and shown a commitment to the brand, and they will move it forward in this market,” he said.

Another dealer said former Ford Australia president Tom Gorman may have been correct when he said Ford dealers had difficulty selling the small cars in Ford’ s range.

“I think the dealer network really struggled with small cars three or four years ago,” said the dealer, who also wanted to remain anonymous.

“I can definitely understand it is now more about the experience. Customers use social media and are now more savvy. Bad experiences get out.” “The change Ford wants to make starts with product and getting the message across. Then it’s convincing Australians it’s the right product. They are starting to do that.” In the past, moving the Falcons made at Broadmeadows tended to skew the advertising campaigns to the disadvantage of the small cars.

“It’s about where the advertising dollars are getting spent and where they want to drive market share.

“The manufacturers lead the dealers in terms of they’re the ones doing the primary advertising on their products in the market.

“And, if they have a huge supply of large cars that they cannot sell, the advertising dollar goes to those and they forget about the small cars.” The dealer said he was impressed by what he had seen and heard.

“Today they have given us a taste of what is coming. We didn’t expect to see the Everest. We didn’t expect (global president Alan) Mulally to be here.

“Refreshing the entire line by 2017 is no small feat.

“We have to get our heads around stopping manufacturing and sourcing all the cars globally.

“It’s doing business differently to how we have done it and it’s going to give us access to the products people want to buy.

“I think today is the line in the sand and we are going forward. This is the new Ford. And they have something to tell.”

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