The program, funded by an appropriation from the legislature, includes dealership training by the staff of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, a part of the California EPA.
It also includes six videotapes that demonstrate the best way to prevent spills, clean parts and shop floors and reduce the use of aerosol spray cans. The tapes also encourage a switch to water-based cleaners, from petroleum-based ones.
The tapes show how small investments in parts washers and changes in procedure can pay off quickly in reduced labor, lower supply costs, reduced waste disposal charges and fewer job injuries.
"Some dealers fear this is going to cost them a little money upfront," said Bryon Bowlby, dealer operations representative for dealer development in Ford's Los Angeles region. "But in the long run, they will save a lot of money because they don't have to dispose of the (cleaning) solution as often."
Two dealerships have tested the program since January - Downey Ford Inc. in Downey, Calif., and McHugh Lincoln-Mercury of Los Gatos Inc. in Los Gatos, Calif.
"They showed us a four-step way to clean up the floor that is less time-consuming and involves lower operating costs. It eliminates the need for floor drains," said Harlan McHugh, president of McHugh Lincoln-Mercury. "We can also wash parts without (petroleum-based) solvents. The technician can put parts in the washer like a dishwasher and come back in 15 to 20 minutes."
Bob Remy, dealer principal for Downey Ford Inc., said his shop has begun using a hydrophobic mop that absorbs only oil - not antifreeze or water. When there is a spill, the mop licks up the oil, and the used oil can be squeezed into a recycling bin.
Both shops spent less than $5,000 on supplies and parts washers, but they believe the labor savings and lower hauling expense offset the cost of the state environmental program.
Based on the test, Ford intends to promote the voluntary program to its 250 Ford and 57 Lincoln-Mercury stores throughout the state. If the program is well received by dealers and customers in California, Ford may expand the training to other states.
Said Ford environmental engineer John Connor: "We are trying to get a better understanding of how we can assist dealerships in focusing their attention on environmental issues." He said Ford still is evaluating the results of the California pilot.