In what would normally be a large gathering at a swanky Las Vegas hotel, Ford Motor Co. used its annual dealer meeting — conducted virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic — to show retailers how it plans to help them capture more used-vehicle sales.
Among the video presentations viewed by roughly 8,000 dealership employees, Ford executives detailed a new online platform and brand called Ford Blue Advantage that it plans to roll out early next year.
While details have yet to be worked out, executives say the site will allow dealers to see the entire network's used inventory, and it will feature guaranteed pricing and delivery. It also will have a "new certified pre-owned product," according to Mark LaNeve, Ford's director of U.S. marketing, sales and service.
"We think using digital technology and the scale of our dealers, we're going to capture a greater share of that business," he said. "The used-car part of the business is critically important to our dealers. It's a huge source of their profitability."
LaNeve said the automaker is launching its own brand because roughly 3 million used Fords are sold each year, with the company's dealers accounting for roughly one-third of those transactions. Ford executives would like to see that proportion rise.
So too would Brian Frania, general manager of LaFontaine Ford of Lansing in Michigan. He thinks the new platform would "absolutely" help his store make more money in that part of the business.
"No matter what happens with new product, we always have used vehicles and service work," he said. "It's literally the No. 1 focus of the LaFontaine auto group."
Frania said he liked the digital format of the meeting, especially because he could rewatch some segments and pick up new details he may have missed the first time. He was impressed with a presentation by CEO Jim Farley, his first to dealers since taking over from Jim Hackett in early October.
"I've been to a lot of dealer meetings," Frania said. "I don't know that I've ever walked away more excited."