All but four of Ford Motor Co.'s roughly 3,100 U.S. dealers have signed up for a points-based customer rewards program through the FordPass app that will roll out this year.
The automaker last year announced vague plans for a future rewards program that's part of a larger focus on customer retention. Executives used their make meeting to reveal details about the program, which is expected to start as early as April.
The rewards system will include complimentary maintenance, and customers who sign up will receive $210 in service credits at their dealership. Customers can accumulate points for certain actions, which can be transferred to other dealerships. Dealers were told Ford would cover the cost.
"Dealers really get the importance of customer experience," Mark LaNeve, Ford's vice president of marketing, sales and service, told Automotive News. "This program will marry customers to the dealership."
Todd Dyer, chairman of the Ford National Dealer Council, said he's happy with how the program helps build a relationship between the customer and dealer.
"Consumers are going to come back to us for this," said Dyer, who owns Marshal Mize Ford in Hixson, Tenn.
In addition to customer experience, the 90-minute meeting focused on improving dealer profits, which dropped in 2018 compared with 2017. To help increase those figures in 2019, Ford is tweaking its floorplan assistance as a way to offset rising interest rates.
LaNeve noted that his presentation was virtually the same as that of Ford's dealer council chairman, a sign the factory and its retailers are on the same page.
"I've done 30 of these," LaNeve said after the meeting. "I've never seen that kind of alignment."
Dealers heard directly from Ford CEO Jim Hackett, who was attending his first NADA Show as CEO and vowed to sit down with more dealers and attend more meetings with them this year. Hackett was not as visible with dealers in his early days as CEO, but has increasingly made a point to meet with them, including a nearly week-long gathering last October in Las Vegas.
Ford did not show dealers any photos of future product, although most saw the brand's upcoming models at some point last year after they had asked for more transparency.
"I think our relationship is really, really strong," said Kumar Galhotra, Ford's president of North America. "That's not an accident. It's a lot of work."