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    Ford CEO reveals two of three Ford dealers buy in to all-electric strategy


    December 5, 2022 - Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press

     

      Ford CEO Jim Farley revealed during an interview Monday afternoon that the Dearborn automaker has secured commitments from two of every three dealers who plan to go all-in on selling electric vehicles.

      Of the estimated 3,000 Ford dealers in the U.S., 1,920 have enrolled in the voluntary Model e Program for the initial 2024 to 2026 period, the company confirmed to the Free Press.

      Customers shopping for electric vehicles will soon see signage that identifies dealers as Model e Certified Elite or Model e Certified. This is significant because it also tells the public the location of fast chargers needed to "fuel up" electric vehicles.

      Of those that enrolled:• 1,659 chose to be Certified Elite with full sales and service capability• 261 chose to be Certified with full-service capability, limited sales and a lower investment cost.

      Initially, Ford said its dealers needed to decide whether they wanted to pay an estimated $500,000 to $1.2 million to install the charging infrastructure to achieve the special certification status. If dealers don't have charging stations, they can't service the electric vehicles. A second period of certification will take place in 2027, after Ford has begun releasing its new electric vehicle lineup.

      The dollar figures provided were exceptionally conservative, the company has said.

      More:Ford reveals radical plan to restructure automaker into three business units

      The Model e Certified dealer will have one DC fast-charger starting Jan. 1, 2024, for public use, with two plugs. These dealerships will provide repair and get a limited supply of electric vehicles to sell. And the Model e Certified Elite dealer will have two DC fast-chargers for public use and provide full service with access to a full inventory for customer purchase.

      "We're betting on the dealers," Farley told reporters in September. "We're not going to direct (them). But we need to specialize. … The main message I have for the dealers, which I've never said before, because I never believed it was true, is that you could be the most valuable franchise in our industry. But you have to pick, just like we're betting."

      He and members of his executive team met with reporters between dealer meetings at The Bellagio in Las Vegas, immediately after breaking the news to many of its dealers in the U.S.

      Dealers who declined to enroll for 2024 to 2026 will have another opportunity to enroll in 2025.

      Super Duty trucks, which have internal combustion engines (ICE), continue to be a key revenue source for Ford. The Ice Age will remain for years to come, even as the industry evolves, Farley has said.

      Alabama goes electric

      Eddie Stivers, president of Stivers Ford, Alabama, told the Free Press on Monday that both his dealerships in Birmingham and Montgomery have committed to Certified Elite status because the state is enthusiastically embracing electric vehicles.

      "Birmingham is one of the fastest growing EV registration cities," he said, and the company is building an enormous new dealership facility. In Montgomery, the company serves primarily government and other fleet clients.

      When asked about dealers in New York and Illinois that have filed lawsuits challenging the way the company is unrolling its electric strategy, Stivers said he couldn't speak to specifics.

      "I didn't find the Ford process to have any pressure associated with it," he said, as someone who sells 10 different brands.

      No other company has worked with its dealers as intensely as Ford, Stivers said. "Communication was second to none. They even went around and engaged, I think, 400 dealers. That's 15% of the dealer body. I'm just really pleased Ford has been so deliberate about how they're going to market ... It's going to be a direct benefit to our consumers."

      As a third generation business with more than 400 employees, being on "this journey" is a time of change for all. He said the investment is well above Ford's minimum infrastructure requirements, which still fall below Ford's cost estimate and come in below $500,000.

      "We are very excited about electrification. We've decided to build out our infrastructure at an exponentially higher level than Ford has requested of us," Stivers said, still waiting to learn electric utility costs.

      More:Ford CEO Jim Farley emphasizes only 1 company is challenging Tesla right now

      More:Ford CEO Farley eyes Norway for secret to Tesla's future strategy

      Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: 313-618-1034 or phoward@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid.

      This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ford CEO reveals two of three Ford dealers buy in to all-electric strategy

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