ORLANDO -- By offering to match dealers' spending on facility renovations dollar-for-dollar up to $750,000 per store, Ford has taken an already good program and made it even better, dealers say.
Ford's program won praise from its dealers and from a former chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association whose term was marked by heated opposition to manufacturers' rigid facility-design programs.
"They've raised the bar for other manufacturers," said Jeff Carlson, owner of Glenwood Springs Ford in Glenwood Springs, Colo.
Franklin McLarty, CEO of RLJ McLarty Landers Automotive Holdings, a Little Rock, Ark., dealership group with 25 dealerships in eight states, including three Ford stores, said Ford's approach was more carrot than stick. "I think it's a better way to align the OEMs with their dealer body, by sharing in facility investment rather than setting up penalties" if they don't comply, he said.
Ed Jolliffe, owner of Gorno Ford in Woodhaven, Mich., said the assistance offer, made at the Ford-brand make meeting at the NADA convention here, improved an already good offer from Ford: interest-free loans announced by the company a year ago.
"This is completely voluntary. We needed it," he said.
Jolliffe had wanted to remodel his 40-year-old building since 2004, but delayed the work in part because of an uncertain economy. He estimates the cost of redoing his dealership at $2.5 million to $3 million, which would qualify him for the maximum $750,000 assistance from Ford. "We held off, and thank God we did. Plans are being finished right now, and hopefully we will break ground in April," he said.