DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. is willing to consider the sale of its Auto Collection in Tulsa, Okla., two years after starting the groundbreaking venture.
But no bidder has offered to buy the stores, and Ford is not pursuing a strategy to unwind its consolidated dealerships, Ford CEO Jac Nasser said in an interview with Automotive News.
The Tulsa Auto Collection, Ford's first market consolidation, was formed in 1998. Dealers in Tulsa pooled eight stores that sold about 20,000 new and used vehicles annually. It had 960 employees at the time of the merger. In 1999, Ford bought a majority interest in the Tulsa venture from some of the dealers who originally owned shares.
Asked if the company would sell the Tulsa venture, Nasser said, 'We'd look at it.'
Ford's original vision was to fight large retail chains and revolutionize auto retailing by investing with dealers to consolidate dealerships. Last fall, faced with dealer opposition and lackluster sales performance in the existing Auto Collections, Ford abandoned the strategy in the United States.
'It is clear that we can't do what we wanted to do,' Nasser said. 'Maybe even what we wanted to do wasn't right. I am not even sure about that.'
Still, the five Auto Collections have merit, Nasser said. The stores are a test bed for new retailing practices and technology, he said. In addition, Ford is using the Auto Collections to teach its corporate personnel about retailing in a hands-on environment.
'They are a wonderful place for our people to go and get experience at the retail level,' Nasser said. 'These are young Ford Motor Co. people that traditionally wouldn't have had retail experience.'
Nasser said the Auto Collections are profitable, but the joint ventures are selling fewer vehicles than they did as independent dealerships.
Auto Collections operate in Tulsa, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Oklahoma City and Rochester, N.Y.