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Ford drives new dealer EV standards amid pushback -- as Wall Street watches

Jordyn Grzelewski, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

Ford Motor Co. is moving forward with new standards governing how its retail network can sell electric vehicles amid some pushback from dealers — even as experts say the success of the EV strategy partly will depend on how the rollout goes.

The Blue Oval in September unveiled the new EV standards to its network of some 3,000 U.S. dealers at an annual meeting in Las Vegas. The program is structured in tiers and, for dealers that want to sell EVs, includes investment requirements to install on-site EV charging infrastructure and new stipulations like no-haggle pricing.

Some dealers have indicated they're on board with the program, which runs from the start of 2024 through the end of 2026. But others have raised concerns about the amount of spending required to install chargers, how they'll recoup those investments, how the program will affect their profit margins, and whether the program flouts state franchise laws that require legacy automakers to sell their products via dealers in many states. EV startups, led by Tesla Inc., meanwhile, can sell their vehicles directly to consumers.

“If you’re going to have a plan to ask us to invest a ton of money, a ton of training, a ton of time, then shrink our margins on the other end while you’re making greater margins — that’s where the dealer body is pushing back," Scott Kunes, chief operating officer of Wisconsin-based Kunes Auto and RV Group, told The Detroit News. Kunes Auto Group has more than 40 stores selling numerous brands across the Midwest.

"We all agree with the basic premise," Kunes added. "We have to do a better job with the consumer experience. We have to do a better job from a manufacturer level to a dealer level. But we feel like Ford is trying to dictate this, rather than be a partner in this."

And state dealer associations in at least 13 states — including North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia — have spoken out against the proposed changes, Automotive News reported.

 

Meanwhile, Ford said in a statement this week that it's sticking with a Dec. 2 enrollment deadline and with its plan to implement the program as laid out to dealers in September. Ford has declined to detail how many dealers have enrolled to date — and at what levels — until after the deadline next month.

"We continue to work with our dealers and provide updates on creating an exciting, profitable future for our dealers and Ford with the customer at the center of everything we do. As is the case with any program developed and designed by Ford, we will comply with applicable laws," company spokesman Martin Günsberg said. "The program is a voluntary program for Ford dealers. Individual dealers need to determine when and whether to enroll based on their individual market and its EV readiness."

What the program requires

Following an internal restructuring initiated earlier this year, Ford now has three primary business units dedicated, respectively, to the internal-combustion engine business, EVs and software, and commercial vehicles: Ford Blue, Ford Model e and Ford Pro.

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