"We're giving them a one-stop shop to go through their experience," Kevin Cour, Ford's director of U.S. retail operations, told Automotive News. "For Ford, this is really working with our dealers to create transparency and trust with the customer."
The portal isn't transactional; customers still must go to a dealership to sign final paperwork and get their vehicle. But the service lets customers do much of the rest online, including searching inventory, viewing pricing and incentives, locking in a deal for up to 48 hours, applying for financing, estimating trade-in values and scheduling a test drive.
The automaker plans to add features including customizable purchase and lease options through AutoFi, a financial technology company in which Ford Motor Credit Co. has invested. It also plans to let customers review and execute contracts online with Ford Credit.
Among dealerships testing the program has been Germain Ford in Columbus, Ohio, where General Manager Chad Secrest said customers have appreciated the service.
"It's a great program — a great way for customers to save time and build trust with a dealership," Secrest said. "They know going in they've secured a good deal from researching online and establishing a relationship with their dealer contact."
To participate, dealers take online training. Ford officials say they're usually up and running within three days.
In the tests, shoppers have spent 20 to 25 minutes at a time using the site. That's much longer than shoppers typically spend when they begin at ford.com and then move to other pricing websites.
"Ready.Shop.Go really tries to pull together all of those aspects to keep customers there all through the shopping experience," Cour said. "Third-party shopping sites don't really care what vehicle you buy. Ford dealers care tremendously."