Ford Motor Co. is committed to increasing its minority dealer body, but profitability must be part of the equation, Al Giombetti, president of Ford and Lincoln Mercury marketing and sales, told members of the Ford Motor Minority Dealer Association.
Speaking at the association's annual black-tie banquet here on Thursday night, Giombetti said Ford will honor the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers' "Fifteen Percent Formula for Success."
The plan asks each automaker to consider minority dealer candidates for new and open points until 15 percent of its dealerships are minority owned.
He also said that building a better relationship with its minority dealers is key to helping Ford stabilize and build market share.
"Hitting a number, we're actually pretty good at - but hitting profitability, we haven't been," Giombetti said. "We do need to turn this business around and sell more, because that's what this business is all about."
Ford says the current figure for minority ownership - including Ford, Lincoln Mercury, Volvo, Land Rover and Jaguar dealerships - is 7.4 percent.
Giombetti told the dealers that he wants to hear their ideas and announced his cell phone number.
Bill Armstrong, who took over as president of the Ford minority group on Thursday, said it was a positive gesture for Giombetti to give the dealers his phone number.
"We want to work with Ford, and we hope Ford wants to work with us," said Armstrong, owner of Armstrong Ford of Homestead in Homestead, Fla. "We know if we work together, we can get market share. That's what it's all about, profitability."
Armstrong also said that the association is working on ways it can assist dealers who are marginally profitable or unprofitable. He declined to say how many of the group's dealerships are losing money.
Don Tinsley, president of Legacy Ford in Brunswick, Ohio, said he is encouraged by Ford's new management regime, of which Giombetti is a part. Tinsley says he plans to call him.
"I think he's one of those people who want to be accessible. Unless he's accessible, he can't help us," Tinsley said. "He doesn't expect anyone to call him except people who have an honest concern about what is happening to minority dealers."
Deborah Coleman, Ford vice president of global quality, who was the keynote speaker at the event, told dealers that although Ford's current challenges are great, they are not impossible to overcome.
She added: "We can change the customer's perception about Ford Motor Co. if we change our perception and become more positive about our products and don't see the impossibilities but see all the possibilities."
You may e-mail Arlena Sawyers at [email protected]