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Ford shows disregard for dealers

COMMENT
Forrest Scott is a former dealer and was a member of the Ford National Dealer Council from 1989 to 1990. He is president of Dynamic Marketing Strategies Inc. and Dynamic Results Consulting Inc. in Dearborn, Mich., and Waxahachie, Texas

I couldn't help but wonder how Ford dealers throughout the country felt when Ford Motor Co. announced it finally was getting out of the retail business.

Certainly they should have been happy. Unfortunately, their happiness didn't last long when they discovered that Ford sold all of its Tulsa, Okla., dealerships to UnitedAuto Group, one of the country's largest dealership groups.

Think about all the dealers who have been turned down for additional franchises because the point they were interested in was a contiguous point. Perhaps they wonder whether there is a double standard.

Or consider the minority candidates who have been told there are no dealerships available. Is it likely a candidate who has been waiting patiently for a dealership to become available will believe future statements to that effect? How about the minority candidates who were placed in marginal stores with the belief that as soon as a better dealership became available, they would have a shot at it?

Think about the dealer who has been loyal to Ford for many years and now has a son or daughter ready for a dealership. They, too, weren't given an opportunity to purchase one of the Tulsa points.

Ford missed the boat

The Tulsa dealerships may be the pick of the litter, and they went to one enormous group. I have read that Ford decided it would be best to acquiesce to its dealers and get out of the retail business. If Ford really had wanted to satisfy its dealers, wouldn't it have offered the dealerships to its dealers or placed waiting candidates in them, not just place them in the hands of a single group?

It seems that all this deal has done is raise more questions regarding Ford's true attitude toward its independent franchised dealers. What's in store for the remaining dealerships Ford owns and operates? To whom will they go? Why were all the Tulsa dealerships sold to one group? Who else was offered those dealerships?

Those questions should be asked by every Ford dealer and by the Ford National Dealer Council.

Maybe it's time for Ford to show its dealers a bit of simple respect. After all, they are the people who face the customers every day. And, as Ford has learned painfully, without them, sales do not flow in.

Independent dealers are a resilient group. They have learned that not only do you have to know how to succeed in this business, you must know how to survive.

Tire mess hurts dealers

Many people speak of the difficulties Ford faces in the Firestone situation, but they forget that the dealer body also has taken a tough hit. Ford approached the dealers and customers as a victim seeking compassion. The fact is, both dealers and customers expect Ford to protect them from the very thing that has happened.

Was it faulty tires or the vehicle? From the dealers' perspective, it doesn't matter. The dealers now are faced with unhappy customers who may jeopardize the dealers' ability to maintain Blue Oval status.

Will Ford show dealers some respect and remove unfavorable customer satisfaction surveys from the dealer score? Why not? After all, dealers were not involved in the tire selection.

So how are dealers rewarded for their efforts and loyalty? They are passed over when opportunities such as Tulsa become available. Tulsa was an opportunity for Ford to step up and take the high road, and Ford missed it.

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