Brian Kelley must learn the nuances of selling cars as he goes. In Salt Lake City, those lessons are coming the hard way.
The new Ford executive, hired last summer from General Electric Co., is in charge of the company's auto collection and e-commerce strategies.
In its first year of operation, the Utah Auto Collection has suffered parts availability and vehicle inventory problems, employee and customer dissatisfaction and lost sales vs. the previous year.
Kelley admits they probably tried to do too much, too fast with too few decision makers where it matters most - in the stores.
Today, however, the Utah Auto Collection 'has turned the corner toward profitability, share growth and customer satisfaction improvement,' he says.
Kelley, 39, represents a new generation of Ford leaders. The outsider with the boyish face seems the antithesis of his predecessor, Ross Roberts, 62. The outgoing Texan, who retired Dec. 31, rose through Ford's sales and marketing operation, building close relationships with dealers along the way.
Kelley is not writing off the Utah collection or the consolidation strategy. But he has put a moratorium on launching future collections beyond the few already in the planning stages.
'It doesn't make sense to keep expanding the model until we get it where we want to be,' he says.
In the meantime, in Salt Lake City, the collection will continue to refine the selling and service process to determine what works best there and could be tried in other markets.
'What we want,' Kelley says, 'is a process where, when the consumer comes away and judges and assesses us, we want them to say, `That's the most consumer-satisfying thing I've ever been through.''