DEARBORN –Strong demand for Ford’s three new plug-in vehicles has Ford certifying hundreds more dealers to sell them than expected – including 900 to be certified by spring and make Focus Electric, C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi available in all 50 states for the first time.
The 900 dealers represents about one-third of all Ford dealers in the U.S., triples Ford projections for the time frame and are an increase of 200 from November 2012, the second full month C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid were available.
Sales show these hybrids are resonating with customers, further strengthening the case for dealerships to certify. Ford delivered a record January hybrid sales month, following a record-breaking electrified vehicle sales quarter in the fourth quarter of 2012. Ford expects to announce today record January sales for Fusion Hybrid.
Certification allows dealers to sell Focus Electric, C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. Certification isn’t necessary for a Ford dealer to sell C-MAX Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid. Ford announced the certified dealer program in February 2011.
Certification also means greater geographic convenience for customers throughout the U.S. for vehicles such as Fusion Energi – Ford’s second production plug-in hybrid that delivers an EPA-estimated gas plus electric range of up to 620 miles (21 in all-electric mode) and fuel economy of EPA-estimated rating of 108 MPGe city, 92 MPGe highway and 100 MPGe combined. Fusion Energi – Ford’s most fuel-efficient sedan – recently began shipping to dealers.
“Research indicates that 60 percent of new vehicle shoppers are considering hybrid products. With this demand for more fuel efficient vehicles, early sales of Ford’s five electrified vehicles has been phenomenal, creating a tremendous amount of excitement among our dealers,” said C.J. O’Donnell, Ford Electrified Vehicle Marketing manager.
Brian House, Electrified Vehicle Sales Manager at Varsity Ford in Ann Arbor, Mich., said the dealership went through the certification process about a year ago – months before vehicles such as C-MAX Energi were being sold. He said the process has been worth it, especially when it comes to providing the best customer service possible.
“All 23 of our sales staff are able to answer questions about each of these vehicles,” said House. “That’s important, because customers want to learn as much about these vehicles as possible.”
Such inquiries at Ford dealerships around the country are translating to sales.
Ford’s launch of the new C-MAX Hybrid, C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid and Fusion Hybrid this past autumn led the company to deliver record-setting hybrid sales in December, resulting in a 9 percent market share gain to 16 percent. In the same period, Toyota’s share of the hybrid vehicle segment fell 8 points, from 68 percent to 60 percent.
“With so much excitement and activity surrounding Ford’s new electrified vehicles, we can rest assured our certified dealers are invested in being prepared to provide the best possible customer service,” said Paul Russell, Ford’s field operations manager. “Whether a customer is stopping in to look at one of these vehicles for the first time or picking up their brand-new plug-in hybrid, the certification program ensures we are ready.”
Certification means the dealerships have met the automaker’s guidelines for dealers selling electric vehicles – including installation of at least two on-site charging stations and participation in highly specialized training in the field of electric vehicles.
“If you don’t get on board, you’re going to get left behind,” said Tom Tower, a 30-year veteran in the service department at Varsity Ford who took part in the electrified vehicle certification training.
“People in our field can usually look at a service order and get a pretty good idea of what needs to be fixed. That’s not necessarily the case with a hybrid or all-electric vehicles.”
To become certified, dealers had to satisfy a list of other requirements, too, including:
•One of the two required charging stations at the dealership must be in the customer area and the other must be in the service area
•At least one Focus Electric and C-MAX Energi must be available at all times for demonstrations and events
•Of the sales consultant, sales manager, service advisor and service manager jobs at each location, 80 percent must meet specific electric vehicle training certification requirements that cover topics including advanced knowledge of electrification
•Each showroom will have point-of-purchase display materials including digital assets and window signage
•Participation in a Ford Go Green Dealer on-site facility assessment to identify energy- and cost-saving opportunities with a goal of facilitating energy efficiency, lower operating expenses and carbon footprint reduction
Ford took a phased approach to rollout of the EV Certified Ford dealer program that began with phase one and centered on 19 key markets as determined by market research, projected customer demand and other factors. The same approach was used in phase two as the program launched in an additional 23 markets.
With more than 900 EV Certified Ford dealers expected to soon be in the network, the phase strategy is no longer being used.
“The newest approach is based on a key market coverage strategy to ensure we have good representation on a national basis to meet customer demand,” said Russell.
To certify… and beyond
Dealership certification is just one way Ford readied itself for the five new electrified vehicles it is now selling. Other ways the Blue Oval prepared included:
•Doubling the size of the vehicle development teams focused on fuel savings and electrified vehicles compared with five years ago; Ford now has more than 1,000 engineers working on electrification
•Most of the 1,000 engineers work in the 285,000-square-foot Advanced Electrification Center, a large building dedicated solely to vehicle electrification and located at Ford’s Dearborn campus
•Doubling the size of its battery testing capabilities to help accelerate development of electrified vehicle-related technologies by as much as 25 percent
•Transforming Wayne, Mich.-based Michigan Assembly Plant into a state-of-the-art facility capable of building several models – including Focus Electric, C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi – as part of a $550 million project
•Working with suppliers on a $220 million project to convert Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich. into a facility that produces transmissions for Ford’s electrified vehicle lineup, a move that has helped create 225 jobs and allowed Ford to deliver on its commitment to offering customers the power of choice when it comes to fuel efficiency
More information about Ford’s electrified vehicle lineup can be found here