Ford Motor Co. imposes tougher conditions on publicly held dealership groups that want to acquire its stores than it does on private buyers, dealers' attorneys assert.
A previously secret agreement between Ford and Asbury Automotive Group, now part of a court case in California, outlines the criteria the automaker says the large public dealer group must meet before it can buy more Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealerships.
The agreement requires all 12 of Asbury's Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealerships to match or exceed the automaker's regional averages for market share and customer satisfaction. Until then, it cannot apply to acquire additional stores.
Automotive News obtained an abridged version of the confidential agreement that obliterates its date and obscures its signatures. Dealers' attorneys who are familiar with the agreement say that Ford applies a higher standard to Asbury - and other publicly held dealership groups - that want to buy its stores than it does to private dealers and groups.
Ford refused to comment on the Asbury agreement. It has insisted it applies the same standards to all would-be buyers of Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealerships.
Ford requires public groups to sign a "supplemental terms agreement" that governs dealership acquisitions. Ford disclosed key language of its agreement with Asbury in the California lawsuit, which challenges Ford's policies on store purchases.