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Ford asks dealers for help with launches

Ford executives fielded questions about the aluminum F-150 pickup, introduced at the Detroit auto show earlier this month.

NEW ORLEANS -- With 16 product launches coming in 2014, Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of the Americas, asked dealers at the make meeting Sunday to partner in the launch process.

"He asked us to pay attention to quality issues and let them know early on if there are problems," said Jeff Carlson, a Ford dealer from Glenwood Springs, Colo.

Instead of "shoving cars at us," Ford is "asking us to participate in the launch, Carlson said. "The tone in the room was completely different. Ford was being collaborative."

Among the 16 launches scheduled this year are some of Ford's most important vehicles: the 2015 Mustang, the Transit commercial van -- and biggest of all, the 2015 F-150 pickup, which has an aluminum body.

At the make meeting, Ford fielded questions about the aluminum pickup, introduced at the Detroit auto show earlier this month.

Todd Citron, general manager of Hub City Ford in Lafayette, La., said a number of questions arose about insurance rates and repair costs on the 2015 F-150.

"They think it [repair costs] will be the same or possibly less," said Citron, who said his dealership is one of the largest F-150 stores in the state.

Greg Rothfeldt of Countryside Ford, Clearwater, Fla., sells 200 new and used vehicles month, including 40 to 50 F-150s. He said he will gear up for the new truck.

"We have a body shop, so we'll need about $30,000 to $50,000 in additional tooling, but Ford is going to help us out on that with some incentives."

Larry P. Vellequette contributed to this report

You can reach Bradford Wernle at

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