Ford Motor Co. will consider reducing its dealer body as it works on turning around its troubled North American business, Ford executive Mark Fields said yesterday.
But Ford doesn't have hard plans to trim its dealer network significantly, he said.
Fields, who is president of the Americas, spoke yesterday at the J.D. Power and Associates International Automotive Roundtable.
"Let's face it, our share has gone down a third since 1995 or so. So we're going to adjust as appropriate," Fields said. "But we're going to do it in working with our dealer network."
The automaker had 4,396 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury stores in the United States at the end of 2005, a Ford spokeswoman said. Ford continually studies that network to determine what areas are growing and what areas are shrinking, Fields said.
The automaker is underrepresented in some areas, such as the South and West, Fields said. He acknowledged that Ford has too many dealers in other areas but wouldn't say where.
"Over time, we'll take the appropriate actions to make sure we have a right-size dealer network," Fields said.
Earlier in yesterday's conference, J.D. Power President Steve Goodall said Ford-brand stores have only about 45 percent of the sales efficiency as Toyota. The average Toyota store sold 1,623 vehicles in 2005, while the average Ford-brand store sold an average of 729 vehicles, he said.
Fields countered that per-store sales at Ford's 1,200 largest stores are higher than Toyota's overall figure. But "we have a lot of dealers in small rural areas," he said.
Fields also said Ford has no plans to cut dealer margins. But he left the door open for future margin changes. He said the company will do what it takes to keep itself and its dealers competitive.
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