Ford Motor Co. quietly has settled a lawsuit brought by megadealer Bob Baker after the automaker blocked the sale of his Ford dealership in San Diego to Asbury Automotive Group.
The out-of-court settlement, reached late last month, is confidential. Neither Ford nor Baker would discuss its terms.
The automaker refused to say whether the settlement allows Baker to resume sales talks with Asbury, the nation's sixth-largest dealership group.
Asbury, which was not a party to the suit, declined comment.
The case was scheduled to go to trial on Dec. 13. By settling before trial, Ford avoids a public review of its decision to reject the dealership sale.
Lawyers for dealers say Ford imposes tougher conditions on public groups that want to buy Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealerships than it does on private dealers and groups.
Ford insists it applies the same standards to all potential buyers.
In August 2002, Asbury agreed to pay $88 million for six of Baker's stores in the San Diego area, including the Ford dealership. Ford's refusal to permit the sale helped kill the entire transaction.
The discovery process in the case disclosed a secret supplemental agreement between Ford and Asbury. It requires all 12 of Asbury's Ford and Lincoln Mercury stores to meet or exceed the automaker's regional averages for car and truck sales as well as customer satisfaction scores. The manufacturer could reject Asbury's attempt to acquire additional Ford stores if one of the group's seven Ford dealerships fell below average in any of those three categories.
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