Ford Testing New Storefronts in Shopping Malls

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
ford testing new storefronts in shopping malls

With the American public growing less inclined to visit car dealerships, Ford Motor Company is toying with an interesting solution — setting up shop in your local mall. The concept will be similar to the storefront Jake and Elwood crash through in The Blues Brothers after noticing “ the new Oldsmobiles are in early this year.” It’ll be small, limited to a couple of showroom models, and will serve as a satellite for local dealerships.

However, shopping malls aren’t nearly as popular as they were in the 1980s. Back then, people actually left the house to do their shopping. But there’s still hope. Many malls are rebranding themselves as shopping centers and focusing more on experiential services and the kind of goods you wouldn’t want to purchase sight unseen. The rest continue to wither on the vine.

Ford has dabbled in experience centers before. Lincoln set up a handful of small, boutique shops in more-affluent areas while the mainstream nameplate set up “FordHub” in New York’s Westfield World Trade Center shopping mall — hoping to educate consumers about its new mobility projects. The new pilot program is more straightforward. It’s all about pushing existing products and hoping to connect consumers with dealerships during a period of dwindling auto sales.

“This is a tremendous period of change for the dealers,” Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence at Cox Automotive, told The Detroit News. “This started several years back. Every year, the number of dealerships visited by car buyers declines.”

From The Detroit News:

Ford plans to try the concept at an as-yet-unannounced mall in the United States, according to Rob De Filippo, Ford’s director of global in-store retail experience. He said the test locations — one in Quebec City, the others in cities in Italy, Belgium and Germany — are generating hundreds of new sales leads that might have otherwise been missed.

The storefronts or stands house a few Ford vehicles. Employees can answer questions and pass leads to salespeople. Passersby are able to test-drive vehicles parked outside in some locations. Although shopping malls have been struggling, De Filippo said satellite locations could pop up in other locations.

Ford claims these shops aren’t intended to replace traditional dealerships, though some locations in Europe do allow customers to sign purchasing or lease agreements on site. “We’re trying to ensure the long-term dealer sustainability,” De Filippo explained. “This is all about learning and testing new concepts. The large-dealer format is going to come under a lot of pressure. So we’re looking at how do we transform retail for the future.”

[Images: Logan Bush/Shutterstock; Ford Motor Co.]

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3 of 64 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Aug 08, 2019

    OK why does that sign say "Bunk"? (Third picture, serious question.)

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Aug 08, 2019

      The sign in front of what looks to be a next-gen Focus has a Euro symbol on it, so it’s probably one of the languages of the countries in the EU. I plugged the word into Google Translate for German->English, and got squat.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Aug 08, 2019

    Ford needs to think about this some more before they do this. The message might be an unintended one that the US auto industry could end up like the shopping mall, out of date and dying.