As Dealers Meet, Ford's Focus Switches From Customer Conquest to Retention

as dealers meet fords focus switches from customer conquest to retention

The plan may as well carry the heading “Operation Don’t Leave Us.” As Ford dealers meet in Las Vegas, the automaker has shifted its focus from luring buyers from other brands to keeping Ford owners in the family.

Helping firm up that relationship are a series of “Built Ford Proud” ads poised to hit the airwaves this weekend, with Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston serving as the brand’s spokesman. For dealers, product assurances top the most-wanted list. Apparently, they got them.

Miffed that Ford culled the brand’s sedan/small car lineup with little notice or consultation, dealers assembled in Las Vegas were told that low-priced Fords will not go extinct, though Automotive News‘ man on the ground didn’t hear specifics about the brand’s entry-level strategy.

Ford’s president of global markets, Jim Farley, reportedly pledged to offer “several” vehicles in the sub-$25,000 price range. Recently, the planned importation of the Ford Focus Active from China hit a dead end as a result of import tariffs, leaving just the tiny EcoSport crossover as entry-level fare.

Globally, Ford faces steep challenges in China as well as Europe, making its sliding U.S. sales even more of a concern. Year to date, Ford sales fell 2.1 percent stateside. Hoping to retain loyal buyers, the automaker plans to allocate more product to high-volume dealers, while development cycles will be shortened to keep the brand on its toes. A loyalty program will emerge in the coming year, targeted mainly at truck buyers.

By offering rewards, new perks, and boosting the frequency of customer interactions, Ford hopes to keep the love flowing back.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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  • Erikstrawn Erikstrawn on Oct 22, 2018

    The dealers ARE the problem. I do my own maintenance, but because I didn't spend hundreds of dollars every year at the dealership, they pretended my warranty issues don't exist. As soon as my Mustang was out of warranty they could hear the strut top popping and offered to fix it for $800. When I told them it was a documented pre-existing condition they told me to pound sand. Ford's warranty is worthless to me. I'm buying Toyota next time.

    • Geozinger Geozinger on Oct 22, 2018

      Sad to say, some things never change. I was a huge Ford fan a long time ago, but the dealers were the worst part of any repair. 30+ years ago, you had to take the car back to the selling dealer for warranty work, which they later relented. Even after, you had obstacles to getting some kinds of work done to your car under warranty. My experience with other dealers has varied. I bought a new Pontiac in 2001 and the dealer at the time was very good, an old school family style operation. But, the principal died in 2003 and was the dealership was snapped up by a dealer group. The service suffered after that. I had a particularly defective car in the mid-2000's and I had purchased a GMPP Extended Warranty. But these folks took to arguing with me about the coverage of the extended warranty. I really believe they argued with me because I bought the GMPP warranty online and not from them. They would fix the car, but not without a lot of grousing. I started buying Chevys after that. My experience with Honda and Toyota dealers has been equally mixed; some were very good, some were awful. A similar issue happened with the Honda dealer my mother had been using, when it was still a smaller operation, they were really good. But later, they either got bought out or sold out to a dealer group. It was downhill from there. My FILs Toyota store was part of a huge dealer group, it's just that Southeast Toyota Distributors liked to squeeze customers every way possible. But, he kept on going back for more, up until he'd had enough. One crappy Camry and then he bought Fords until he passed. I'm not saying you should not buy a Toyota, but check out the dealership you want to use, first.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Oct 24, 2018

    I adored my C-Max. But I dumped it far sooner than I had planned, at the cost of truly epic depreciation, because I was scared to own the damn thing out of warranty. It had so many recalls that we didn't even get to all of the repairs before the warranty ran out. At 70k miles the engine shuddered upon shutoff, the transmission and wheel bearings had already failed and been replaced, and torsional rigidity was so poor that the car creaked like a pirate ship simply turning into a normal driveway. I later learned the latter may have been because of failed A-pillar welds; good thing I never got in a wreck in the thing, I guess. Yet I was still sad to see it go. Ford knows how to make an appealing product...but if it wants to keep customers, it should finish engineering the car before releasing it, err on the side of overbuilding rather than underbuilding for strength, and assemble it with some semblance of care. The one truly outstanding vehicle in Ford's lineup is the Fusion: looks great, handles great, fine value. And yet they have let it wither on the vine...and now they are quitting it and all other passenger cars. I really don't know what they're thinking.

  • Inside Looking Out Why EBFlex dominates this EV discussion? Just because he is a Ford expert?
  • Marky S. Very nice article and photos. I am a HUGE Edsel fan. I have always been fascinated with the "Charlie Brown of Cars." Allow me to make a minor correction to add here: the Pacer line was the second-from-bottom rung Edsel, not the entry-level trim. That would be the Edsel Ranger for 1958. It had the widest array of body styles. The Ranger 2-door sedan (with a "B-pillar", not a pillarless hardtop), was priced at $2,484. So, the Ranger and Pacer both used the smaller Ford body. The next two upscale Edsel's were based on the Mercury body, are were: Corsair, and, top-line Citation. Although the 1959 style is my fav. I would love a '58 Edsel Pacer 4-door hardtop sedan!
  • Lou_BC Stupid to kill the 6ft box in the crewcab. That's the most common Canyon/Colorado trim I see. That kills the utility of a small truck. The extended cab was a poor seller so that makes sense. GM should have kept the diesel. It's a decent engine that mates well with the 6 speed. Fuel economy is impressive.
  • Lou_BC High end EV's are selling well. Car companies are taking advantage of that fact. I see quite a few $100k pickups in my travels so why is that ok but $100k EV's are bad? The cynical side of me sees car companies tack on 8k premiums to EV's around the time we see governments up EV credits. Coincidence? No fooking way.
  • EBFlex "I'd add to that right now, demand is higher than supply, so basic business rules say to raise the price."Demand is very low. Supply is even lower. Saying that demand is outstripping supply without providing context is dishonest at best.