LAS VEGAS — Ford's U.S. dealers must invest as much as $1.2 million and adhere to rigorous sales standards if they want to sell electric vehicles beyond 2023 as the brand tweaks its retail model to better compete with direct-sales startups.
Dealers have until Oct. 31 to opt into one of two EV certification tiers that cover varying investment levels in fast chargers and staff training. Those who choose not to invest will be limited to selling internal-combustion vehicles and hybrids from the Ford brand.
EV dealers must sell the products at nonnegotiable prices, and and those who choose the lower-priced certification tier won't be allowed to carry them in inventory, instead having customers order exactly what they want for later delivery.
Dealers who choose the highest tier — Model e Certified Elite — will be asked to invest $900,000 initially, most of which will go toward installing two DC fast chargers, at least one of which must be public-facing. They likely will have to invest $300,000 more, and add a third fast charger, by 2026. Certified Elite dealers will carry limited stock and have demo models, Ford said.
The lower tier — Model e Certified — will require a $500,000 investment that will mostly go toward installing one public-facing fast charger. Those dealers will be allowed to sell only a limited number of EVs a year, though Ford hasn't decided on that cap yet. They also will not carry inventory or have demo units available, Ford said.
The company offered the less expensive tier in response to feedback from smaller dealers who wanted a lower-cost option.
Ford said the costs for each tier could change based on potential federal or local incentives to install EV chargers. It's partnering with three consulting companies to help dealers install the equipment.
Each certification will be effective from Jan. 1, 2024, until the end of 2026. Ford said dealers who opt out of becoming EV-certified for now will have another opportunity to buy in starting in 2027. It does not expect to force any dealers to do so at that time, either.
"We don't want to rush dealers into being a Model e dealer before their market or they are ready to," Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley told reporters Tuesday on the sidelines of the automaker's annual national dealer meeting here.
Ford said each of its 3,000 U.S. dealers theoretically could choose to become Certified Elite. Farley declined to say how many he wants to opt in.
"We want people to take on these standards that can be profitable in executing them," he said. "It will not be good for the dealers or the company if people take on these standards and they don't get a return on their investment. We're not so excited or dogmatic that we want a certain number of people to take it that we'd look past the financial viability of it. That'd be a really bad move for us."