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FordDirect goes national

DETROIT - FordDirect, the online joint venture created by Ford Motor Co. and its dealers, last week said it has completed its 50-state rollout after a year of operation.

FordDirect, which charges dealers fees for online leads, is routing as many as 80,000 online prospects a month to its network of 2,500 dealers and closing up to 13,000 new- and used-vehicle sales each month.

FordDirect is similar to the Washington locate-to-order pilot General Motors recently shut down, except there is no third-party online buying service involved. Consumers can designate which vehicles they want, find which dealers have them in stock, then complete the transaction with the dealership.

Devon Cohen, FordDirect CEO, said the operation continues to grow because dealers have an 80 percent controlling interest and because management has been flexible. FordDirect has altered dealer fees and online vehicle pricing policies to comply with a patchwork of state anti-broker laws, franchise laws and advertising rules that have tripped up many other dot-coms.

The FordDirect service may be extended to other Ford-related brands, Cohen said.

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