Ford Motor Co. says it can't do much with the recommendations in a study it commissioned to examine its dealer development program -- because the program is inactive.
At the request of the Ford Motor Minority Dealer Association, the automaker commissioned the study by the Howard University School of Business in November 2007. That was before the recession gripped the nation.
The majority of the recommendations Ford "can't use because there is no program to improve upon," says Jamy Hall, the company's director of dealer development. But, she adds, "The communication and dialog piece, we're continuing to do."
Hall would not say how much Ford paid for the study.
The Alliance of Ford Motor Minority Dealers, made up mostly of Hispanic dealers, was supportive of the study, says Oswaldo Garcia, executive director of the alliance. Most members of the Ford Motor Minority Dealer Association are black dealers.
Of Ford's 3,787 dealerships, about 240 are owned by minorities.
As part of its dealer development program, Ford invested in stores run by dealers who lacked adequate financing. Over time, dealers were to buy out Ford's stake with profits from their stores.
Ford discontinued the program this year after allowing dealers in the program to buy the automaker's interest in their stores for $1 if they could provide adequate financing for operating capital. At least 44 of the 60 dealers who bought out Ford's interest in their stores were minorities.
A.V. Fleming, executive director of the association, says his dealer group wanted the study because it thinks minority dealers can help Ford rebuild market share and wants to see Ford devote more resources to minority dealers.
Fleming says the dealers recently met with senior managers at Ford who agreed that the study, produced last summer, is useful. He declined to identify the managers. "They said they were encouraged by what was in the study and it could be used to come up with ways to make Ford a better company," Fleming says.
Hall says that minority dealers are "an integral part of who we are," but that Ford cannot do anything for minority dealers that it can't do for all its dealers.
Among the study's recommendations, it said Ford should establish a governance board to oversee dealer development. That board would be made up of Ford senior managers, leadership of the two minority dealer groups and others.
The study urges Ford to evaluate previously failed points thoroughly before offering them to new minority dealers and to hone its candidate selection process and require ongoing training. It says minority dealer candidates should be held more accountable for understanding their financial capabilities and seeking help when acquiring stores.
The study also urged Ford not to shelve the findings.