ATLANTA - The latest Ford Auto Collection has popped up halfway around the world in Auckland, New Zealand, where Ford Motor Co. has taken an equity position in six dealerships.
On April 1 Ford, through subsidiary Ford Motor Co. of New Zealand Ltd., formed an Auto Collection joint venture with several Ford dealers in Auckland, according to Trevor Walmsley, the manager of one of the dealerships and CEO of the joint venture.
Ford is pursuing dealership consolidations in metropolitan markets in such countries as the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia.
The Auto Collection, Ford's first outside North America, also has signed an agreement to purchase three Mazda dealerships in Auckland, Walmsley said. He expects the Mazda deal to be completed by June 1.
Walmsley talked to Automotive News about the project last week at a seminar in Atlanta on one-price selling. The seminar was hosted by Rikess Group, a Los Angeles company that is a Ford consultant on one-price selling at Ford's U.S. Auto Collections.
In the Auckland Auto Collection, Ford is an equal partner with Colonial Motor Co. Ltd., a New Zealand dealership group that owned three of the Ford dealerships in Auckland. Two other local dealers sold their stores to the Auto Collection and have smaller equity interests in the joint venture.
The catalyst for the venture was John Andrew Ford. The former owner of John Andrew Ford died in February 1998. Ford then bought the dealership and appointed Walmsley to run it. After that, Ford began negotiating with Colonial Motor.
Walmsley said Ford has about 39 dealers with about 73 locations in New Zealand.
Attendees at last week's seminar in Atlanta included two others from the Auckland Ford dealerships and representatives from Ford Motor Co. of New Zealand. They are evaluating whether one-price selling and other aspects of the Ford Auto Collections in the United States, including the name, are appropriate for New Zealand.
Auto Collections are operating in Tulsa, Okla.; Oklahoma City; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Rochester, N.Y.; and the city of Quebec.
The New Zealand group planned to visit the Ford Auto Collection in Salt Lake City and an AutoNation USA used-car dealership in Atlanta. AutoNation uses one-price selling.
FINDING A BRAND PROMISE
Walmsley does not expect to introduce the Auto Collection to Auckland consumers this year.
'It's important that a new business can deliver to the customer an experience that meets your brand promise,' Walmsley said. 'We're evaluating what that brand promise will be and how we intend to deliver on it.'
At least two Ford dealers from Perth, Australia, who also attended the Atlanta seminar, will keep their eyes on Auckland. Ian Goldie, one of the dealers, said the isolated Perth market could be the ideal spot for a Ford Auto Collection.