Ford Division is telling dealers it expects them to boost retail sales by as much as 15 percent within two years.
Six new or updated vehicles, plus an extensive advertising campaign, make that sales target realistic, Ford executives say.
Ford has told dealers that as they sell the new lineup, "They need to increase their sales volume by 10 to 15 percent," says Martin Collins, Ford Division's general marketing manager. "This is not something our dealers find to be overwhelming. They've done this in the past."
Ford Division's U.S. sales, including fleet sales, fell by 15.5 percent from 1999 to 2003. The automaker sold 2,886,575 cars and trucks in the United States last year.
Bob Jorgensen, president of Kistler Ford in Toledo, Ohio, calls Ford Division's sales goal "very reasonable."
"I feel better about my business now than I have for the last 10 years. We have not had a lot of new product year after year until the past year or so."
Jorgensen says sales at his dealership have risen 10 percent to 15 percent in less than four months. He attributes that to the arrival of the Five Hundred sedan and Freestyle sport wagon, along with updated versions of the Mustang and F-series Super Duty pickup. He calls those vehicles home runs.
Other dealers say they were not aware of the new sales target. Some express skepticism.
"If we add the Five Hundred and a decent Mustang, you might get something back, as long as the Focus doesn't fall off," says a Michigan Ford dealer who asked not to be identified.
"The Taurus is just stale, and the Crown Victoria is not a volume car."
Jim Sanfilippo, executive vice president of auto consulting firm AMCI Inc. in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., compares Ford's announcement of its sales target to Babe Ruth's "called shot" home run in the 1932 World Series. "I really don't like to see Ford pointing at the fence right now," he says.