DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. may have too many dealers, but it won't offer a national buyout incentive as a way to winnow its U.S. retail network.
Cisco Codina, group vice president of North American marketing, sales and service, ruled out a national program in an interview with Automotive News.
Although he acknowledged that Ford has too many retailers in some parts of the country, Codina said dealer exits must be handled on a case-by-case basis.
"It can't be any kind of a national program," he said.
"It has to be more of a regional balancing, even down to a city or to a marketplace."
Ford has no target for the number of dealerships that should be cut, Codina said.
The automaker had 4,396 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury stores in the United States at the end of 2005. Those dealerships have suffered with the dramatic slide in Ford's sales and market share.
But reducing the size of the network is difficult "because no one wants to sell," Codina said.
A buyout incentive could help convince some dealers that it's time to get out. But Ford can ill-afford a big outlay with its North American automotive unit deep in the red and truck sales worsening.
Ford did offer an incentive program to its smallest dealers from 1999-2004. It involved cash buyouts as high as $125,000, as well as incentives such as the continuation of used-car auction privileges. About 400 dealers resigned their franchises under the program.
In the absence of a similar program, Codina said Ford must work on improving the profitability and retail sales of dealerships. Any reduction in dealer numbers will occur naturally as dealers initiate a departure.
Said Codina: "We're not going to strong-arm anyone into doing something they don't want to do."
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