"When you have ride-sharing vehicles, the last thing you want is to put that in a dealership and wait four, five days to get it back, because that's downtime," Raj Rao, CEO of Ford Smart Mobility, said last week at a connected-car conference in suburban Detroit. "Our view is that dealers need to provide more real-time services. They need to anticipate when your vehicle should be serviced … they need to be a lot more dynamic."
How? Through data.
"We've made a big investment in telematics organically to put more intelligence in the vehicles," Rao said. "We're sharing that data with dealers."
Rao said dealers have access to specific drivers' schedules and can figure out exactly how much time they'd have to fix a car and get it back on the road before the driver needs it again.
"That starts to create dynamic use of capacity for the dealer network," he said. "Over time, you can start building a model that predicts that."
Rao said that would mean dealerships would need to dramatically shake up operations by offering rapid one-hour service, or even staying open all night.
"We just have to think differently about what does the dealership model mean without all the current incumbencies of the current model," he said. "You're talking about same-hour service, overnight service, things [we] don't even think about."
That will likely increase operating costs, but Rao argued that those cost increases would be worth it if it resulted in a more-efficient dealer network.
A Ford spokesman said the automaker is not piloting anything specific and that Rao's comments were simply ideas the company is considering.
However, Ford is rapidly expanding a dealer program for same-day, on-demand parts delivery that helps reduce wait times at repair shops.
Called Hot Shot, the service allows dealers or independent shops to order brakes, hoses or filters and have them delivered within two hours from other Ford dealers that offer the service. Ford's regular parts distribution centers do not offer same-day delivery.
Since the program's formal introduction in 2015, the number of dealership involved has risen to 300, or roughly 10 percent of the automaker's total network.