Ford's European Future: Far Fewer Dealers, More Online Sales

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Ford’s plan to rein in costs and grow profit (well, create it, to be more accurate) in the European market will see the automaker shed dealers en masse.

Figuring those who really want to test drive a vehicle will be willing to go the distance to do it, Ford’s dealer cull coincides with the release of an online sales platform. That platform rolls out alongside the first model offered through it: the electric Mustang Mach-E.

The automaker’s planned dealer ditching is said to be most severe in the UK, a particularly troubled market for the Blue Oval. One industry newsletter estimated some 180 of the country’s 400 dealers could fall by the wayside. Ford of Europe President Stuart Rowley didn’t cite specifics when speaking with Automotive News Europe.

“It will be appropriate for the market,” he said of the cuts, adding that shedding costs in the area of distribution is key to returning to profitability.

“There is obviously a lot of cost wrapped up in the distribution network and that ends up in the price of the vehicle or coming out of profit,” Rowley said. “We want to make the network more efficient.”

Last year, Ford reported a pre-tax loss of $44 million in the region — a significant improvement over the previous year, despite sales and revenues coming in lower. The automaker said the decline “in Europe’s top line metrics is an outcome of our redesign and portfolio shift as we exit low-margin businesses and refocus our portfolio on


higher-growth and higher-return opportunities.”

In Ford’s mind, fewer dealers does not equal fewer models sold. The online sales system arriving later this year will fill the gap in service left by departing dealers, though the company estimates 90 percent of Britain’s population will still reside within 30 minutes of a Ford dealer.

“Customers want to be able to order their vehicle online. They want to pay for it online. They want a single interface,” Rowley said. They also want convenient servicing, which is why Ford plans to convert some dealers into service-only centers. Others will focus entirely on selling the Transit family of commercial and passenger vans — a fresh product lineup with much growth potential in the region.

[Image: Ford]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Mar 13, 2020

    We might eventually see Chinese made vehicles sold at Walmart. Go to Walmart.com and make your selection and select your method of payment.

  • Bd2 Bd2 on Mar 13, 2020

    Honda in Australia is also looking to cut dealer count. But aside from Tesla (and possibly for upcoming EV brands), the online sales/distribution model hasn't yet gained traction for traditional auto-makers. as buyers still like to be able to see and pick and choose among numerous options (color, trims, etc.).

  • Dave M. The Outback alternates between decent design and goofy design every generation. 2005 was attractive, 2010 goofy. 2015 decent. 2020 good, but the ‘23 refresh hideous.Looking forward to the Outback hybrid in ‘26…..
  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
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