FordDirect.com, a joint-venture shopping site shared by Ford Motor Co. and its dealers, has hooked a big marketing deal. But a more significant play is around the corner.
FordDirect last week announced a deal with AutoTrader.com to post its dealers' used-vehicle inventory on the AutoTrader site. AutoTrader.com boasts 5 million unique visitors a month and an online inventory of 1.5 million vehicles. Beginning in August, it will offer a special link to FordDirect.com for undisclosed financial terms.
While AutoTrader should be a boon to FordDirect, FordDirect soon could build volume through a more obvious link: Ford.com.
Ford, which owns 20 percent of FordDirect.com, has decided to place a link for that site on Ford.com, said David Kain, COO of FordDirect. Ford had been reluctant to do so earlier because FordDirect had not been rolled out nationally, he said.
The link will allow FordDirect to capitalize on Ford's recognized brand name. And it will give FordDirect cost-effective access to many potential Ford buyers. Alliances with high-volume Web sites can run tens of millions of dollars.
The link to FordDirect was expected to appear under Ford's list of services on Ford.com late last week. Until now, Ford.com has promoted the joint-venture site only in online press releases.
FordDirect.com needs the traffic. It has been rolled out to 1,600 dealers in 21 states. The average closing ratio for participating dealers is more than 17 percent - on the high side for automotive shopping sites, according to statistics compiled by J.D. Power and Associates. FordDirect said it had about 10,000 referrals in June, resulting in about 1,700 new-vehicle sales. Ford Division sold more than 326,000 light vehicles in June.
FordDirect could not offer an accurate estimate of traffic to the site because it is a moving target, Kain said.
Staff reporter Donna Harris can be reached at [email protected] or 540-668-7295