Ford Division dealers reserved their heartiest applause for a bit of old news at the make meeting.
Jim O'Connor, president of the division, repeated the company's pledge not to sell directly to consumers via the Internet.
Jerry Reynolds, chairman of the Ford Dealer Council, said: 'That's the No. 1 issue. That drew rousing applause.'
Aside from Internet anxiety, however, and some worries about product delivery, the make meeting was upbeat. Sales are sky-high, profits are robust and dealers anticipate a full year of hot sellers, such as the Ford Excursion, and new products, such as the Explorer Sport Trac.
'We're looking at a very strong industry this year,' O'Connor said. 'We're expecting 16.4 million in sales' in 2000. The figure excludes medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
Reynolds added: 'This is the most upbeat (NADA) make meeting I've been to. We're pretty happy guys.'
The division's primary Internet goal is to devise the most efficient partnership with the dealers, not bypass them, O'Connor said.
Many dealers are leery of such pledges because the communication power of the Internet could enable factories to sell directly to consumers.
Ford has stated it wants a partnership with dealers, 'but nobody wants to believe that's our intent,' said Jim Schroer, vice president of global marketing at Ford Motor Co., after the make meeting.
Ford is working hard on various Internet activities because it is a fast-growing medium used by millions, he said. 'But the dealers will still do the sales and the service. People think there will be another distribution system. That's not the case.'
O'Connor said after the meeting that the division has a program under way to train dealers for faster response time to Internet sales leads.
Reynolds said the Internet brouhaha boils down to, 'What's the best way to get the leads to the dealer?'
Dealer Greg Knuth, part owner of Osseo Ford in Osseo, Wis., was satisfied with the division's Internet promises at the meeting.
Besides, he said, state franchise laws, which typically prohibit direct factory sales, will keep the factory at bay.