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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.
Source: AM Online