With its concierge service program, Ford Motor Co. is making another voyage on the uncharted (for manufacturers) sea of customer satisfaction.
Despite lip service to the contrary, vehicle makers have never been strong on satisfying the customer after the sale. That has always been the dealer's job. Saturn, that 'different kind of company,' is a notable exception.
Now, under Jac Nasser, Ford is striving to be a customer services company that sells cars and trucks. Worldwide. It's a fine idea in this age of consumerism. But Ford must do it right. Ford must recognize that it is an amateur in the field of customer satisfaction.
Ford must not build its newfound customer concern on the corpses of its dealers. It must work with - and learn from - the dealers who have made serving the customer their creed throughout their careers.
The concierge plan caters to the multitude who simply don't have time to have their cars serviced or repaired. Handled properly, it can be excellent.
Elsewhere, in Carclub.com, Ford is investing in an online automotive site that aims to sell autos of all makes plus insurance, repairs and many other services to a national pool of club members. A warning: Don't bypass your dealers.
'Jac's Junkyards,' a massive recycling program, is still in the infant stage. It's worth watching.
Kwik-Fit is a new Ford property in Europe. It operates about 1,900 shops that specialize in replacing tires and exhaust systems and other routine service. It also sells auto insurance. Rating: Good.
And then there's the Auto Collection, whereby Ford buys out the dealers in a metropolitan area, sets up superstores and runs them with the former independent dealers as partners. The jury is still out; Ford hasn't proved it's a better idea.
As in any worthwhile endeavor, 'you gotta creep before you can walk' in serving customers. Ford must keep that mind.