Ford is planning to cut more than half its current retailer network in time to for a switch to agency sales, according to Auto Retail Agenda sources.
It is understood the network was issued with termination notices last year and it was known a cut back was planned. However, final numbers for those that will survive the cull have only more recently come to light.
Earlier this year, retailers said they were told by Ford that the aim was to hit 120 new car sales sites. However, some businesses have since been told by Ford this target will be “over-achieved and the final number could be fewer than 100 showrooms”.
Other retailers were more sceptical of Ford’s ability to reach the target and expected the final number to be higher. One business owner that Auto Retail Agenda spoke to said the move was a continuation of Ford’s plan from the start of 2020 when it first said it would near-halve its network in the UK from 400 sites to around 210 dealerships.
This plan, exclusively revealed by Auto Retail Agenda at the time, aimed to complete the reduction by the end of this year. According to Auto Market Data, Ford currently still has 302 new car sales points.
Speaking to retailers earlier this year, Martin Sander, Ford European boss of its Model e electric car division, confirmed the manufacturer would adopt the agency model for all new car sales.
Ford has been trialling the agency model approach in the Netherlands since the start of this year and will use the country as a learning experience before rolling out the plan to other European countries, including the UK.
A Ford spokesperson said the UK had not set a date for the switch to the agency model and was still in the “learning phase”.
The spokesperson did not deny the cuts but added: “We haven’t confirmed any timings around when the ‘agency’ model will come to UK, nor what the size or shape of the network will look like under any agency agreement in the future. We don’t recognize the numbers that you quoted to us; they have not been communicated by anyone from Ford.
“We hope to have a firmer position toward the end of 2023 or early 2024 around more precise timings of implementation, and our dealer network will always be the first to hear about what our plans are going forward.
“We continue to work constructively with our dealer network and dealer working groups at all levels within the Ford Britain team, including and up to Lisa Brankin as managing director.”