Ford Plans New Site For Car Sales - InformationWeek

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Ford Plans New Site For Car Sales

With support from its parent automaker, Ford Motor Co.'s dealer council has revealed plans to build a Web site that will let customers configure, select, price, and finance, as well as initiate the purchase and schedule delivery of a new car or truck with participating dealers in minutes.

FordDirect.com, the commercial enterprise that runs the site, will be jointly owned by the automaker and participating dealers, with an independent management team appointed by the venture's board of directors. Trilogy Software has been chosen to create an E-commerce platform, according to a dealer council statement. The new site is expected to be fully operational in September in California, with nationwide availability expected sometime next year. Although Ford will own part of the venture, the dealers will retain control of FordDirect.com.

"Earlier this year, our dealers came to us with a proposal to join forces and invest with us to build the biggest and best online direct purchase Web site," Jim O'Connor, president of the Ford division, said in a statement. "Customers will be able to buy a new car or truck online with confidence and peace of mind, knowing that the entire experience is backed by Ford and our dealer partners."

Although the dealer council calls this an unprecedented partnership between an auto-dealer group and a manufacturer, General Motors Corp. and key dealers are working to win support from a majority of its dealers to build a similar site by way of a similar co-owned partnership. It will differ from the Ford site in that it will contain pricing and competitive information and feature links to dealers of competing automakers for lead referral purposes.

One Ford dealer applauded the effort. "This has the potential to benefit all dealers because we can knock the [third-party] dot-coms out of the picture and retain full-customer loyalty," says Jim Harrison, general manager of Acton Ford in Acton, Mass. "And by tying in service after the sale with the dealer, you address a key shortcoming of third-party sites--they can sell you a car but they can't service it." And it's attractive to dealers because it's a joint venture, not something owned totally by Ford, he adds. Ford's existing Ford.com auto-shopping Web site refers leads to dealers, but lacks many tools needed to actually enter the purchasing process.

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