Main Body

Chapter 5: A Model of Efficiency: The Ford Motor Company

The capricious nature of the U.S. automotive industry is evident throughout its history. Dedicated persons from different business backgrounds and economic perspectives handle the many economic and financial complexities inherent in this kind of enterprise. Those employees cover the gamut from dedicated factory workers, seasoned mechanics and talented designers/engineers to innovative accountants, office personnel and shrewd sales representatives. All of them have two business objectives in mind namely producing and maintaining quality domestic vehicles that engender consistently high corporate profits with only minimum additional overhead costs. Recognized business innovators, caught up in a never-ending, fast-paced competition aimed at obtaining an even bigger percentage of the domestic auto market, they are constantly redefining their business goals and objectives as well as reshaping the mission of their respective car makers.

Tightly held business convictions, evident from the earliest days of their operations, have only intensified over time as the best and the brightest of these domestic car makers attempt to secure even larger business footholds within the ever-expanding world market. The basic economic and business principles that guide the domestic automotive industry, have not radically changed over the years, even if, many of the business procedures and everyday production modes have undergone sweeping revisions due to inevitable and substantial business and manufacturing advances. The latest operational practices and automated production methods directly reflect these advances. They emanated from the latest phase of the Industrial Revolution that began in the 1980s.

Today’s buying public has access to a plethora of worthwhile information pertaining to this industry that did not exist 25 years ago. With that vital knowledge in hand, customers have become very outspoken when it comes to what they expect from both their automakers and dealerships. They insist upon being pampering at each-and-every level. After all, car buyers are the ones with cash in hand. The foremost business challenge facing the domestic auto industry throughout its colorful past has been how best to satisfy the many needs and wants of their growing customer-base; but rather, how to operate in the black over the years. Those domestic manufacturers and affiliates who demonstrate consistently high profit levels with only minimal increases in overhead costs most often meet the challenge, while less insightful companies and dealers fall behind.

Locally based dealerships undoubtedly play an indispensable role in the entire buying process. They remain the focal point for all new car sales activity. However, unlike conventional local retailers who might rely on other retail professionals, such as jobbers or in-house buyers, to supply them with the merchandise intended to please their many customers, local car dealers take their business cues directly from the buying public as to the kind of automobiles they want and need at any given time. A courtesy staff and reliable repair service remain indispensable if a dealer intends to be profitable long-term. If done properly, those two crucial aspects of business may in fact take precedent with some customers over the actual automobile brand sold at that site. That phenomenon rarely occurs in more traditional retail environments. Throughout it all, the domestic automobile manufacturer must continue to offer the best possible vehicles with the greatest number of options for the least amount of money. Everyone expects a great deal when buying a new or used car. Failure to fulfill those expectations may force many loyal customers to look elsewhere for their new vehicle.

Surprisingly, U.S. buyers still demand high performance, beautifully designed cars in a wide assortment of styles, colors and price ranges. Few other major manufacturers encounter such unrelenting economic pressure from their loyal customer-base. In other industries, the majority of buyers generally welcome new products and services with few questions asked. That never held true for the domestic automotive industry. With the possible exception of its first years when manufacturers sold virtually everything they made, domestic car makers have been obliged to offer a wide selection of different priced autos annually with no guarantee that the consumer will buy the products at hand.

Successful entrepreneurs engaged in today’s computer-related businesses have taken a page right out of the automobile industry’s business playbook. Like their predecessors in the auto industry, modern computer companies also devote much of their working time towards developing new and unique products, which they hope will ensure customer loyalty. They accomplish that most formidable task by offering a steady barrage of relatively cheap, highly versatile electronic products such as hybrid mobile phones. Whether auto related or computer engendered, those able to remain nimble enough to capitalize quickly on the latest technical developments and marketing trends may indeed lead the pack for many years.

Like previous domestic car buyers, who demanded the latest innovations at the cheapest possible price, today’s computer users also expect a steady stream of high quality hardware and software packages at a very low cost. Their insistence on having the latest special applications often takes precedent over other practical considerations such as product durability. Not unlike the automotive industry where phenomenal growth in the number of buyers, during its first two decades, led to the development of better, more sophisticated vehicles, the extraordinary increase in the number of computer users, over its recent past, has prompted even more effective and efficient web sites. As the automotive industry matured the needs of the car owner for quality repair service and a wide range of different models with their-own special gadgetry also grew. The computer industry is similar in that regard. Like the domestic car makers of the past, today’s computer companies have repeatedly reminded their customers that they offer the very best in affordable, high quality products and services.

Perfecting their-own, versatile corporate culture has allowed computer industry giants to enjoy phenomenal economic success. The corporate culture they closely ascribe to has enabled them to withstand the multitude of economic and financial challenges that have presented themselves over the years. Unfortunately, some of the computer industry’s pioneers, such as Wang and Bell, failed to embrace that all-consuming new business approach fast enough to fight off mounting competition successfully. The domestic auto industry was not immune to that either having experienced similar problems in the not too distant past. Car makers know all too well the dire economic consequences that await those that are unable or unwilling to provide the kind of quality products quick enough for a very insistent customer-base.

Lack of quality design along with safety hazards, fuel inefficiency and frequent recalls have led many loyal car buyers repeatedly to seek out other brands with more solid business reputations for dependability and quality. In fact, countless studies, conducted over the past half century, have shown that the buying public thinks nothing of switching car makes when their favorite manufacture no longer provides the kind of vehicles they want or need. If that sounds somewhat familiar it is because modern computer users often engage in similar practices when they believe that their most current needs and wants are not being fulfilled. Both the auto and computer industries rely on adroit advertising to sell their services and wares. One advertising ploy, used successfully by both, reiterates the many negative aspects of owning and operating a rival’s product, while, at the same time praising the many advantages of purchasing their particular item.

As far as the domestic auto industry is concerned, providing top-notch repair service may well lead to repeat business. One interesting side note, the idea of providing car repairs through local dealerships did not originate in the smoke filled boardrooms of shrewd 20th century domestic auto manufacturers, hardly. It began at the grass route level. The buying public knew that operating any kind of auto required a certain amount of professional maintenance. Those purchasers also discovered that many of the small independent service stations were ill equipped to handle such a monumental task. That realization led many dissatisfied car owners to insist that the automotive industry, and not local service stations, assume the bulk of the business responsibility for repairing the vehicles they manufactured. Customers firmly believed that domestic car makers owed it to them since they were the ones who knew how their automobiles operated best.

The nature of the automotive industry determined both the breath and scope of repair services delivered. Consistently high quality service and fair market pricing have represented the keys for lasting financial success within this highly competitive enterprise. Everyone engaged in today’s automobile field accepts those premises no questions asked. How could they not? However, that was not always the case. It took some serious experimentation before that idea successfully filtered down to the rank-and-file. As pointed out previously, many pioneers in this field initially expressed a reluctance to offer any substantial repair services, even though the majority of early 20th century business models strongly advocated it. That business attitude changed quickly as more and more car makers realized that they could make sizable profits if their dealerships rather than independent garages provided the buying public with affordable, convenient repair service. Insightful automotive pioneers instinctively knew that the domestic automobile business would evolve into a buyer’s market. Sustaining a loyal customer-base would not only depend on the industry providing purchasers top quality vehicles at reasonable cost; but also, giving them some kind of worthwhile warrantee protection. Failure to do both would prove economically disaster.

Today’s never-ending competition, waged among car makers worldwide is not something new. The importance placed on these costly vehicles encouraged fierce competition from the very start. What often distinguished successful domestic manufacturers from non-unsuccessful producers was not necessarily the dependability or quality of the autos themselves; but rather, the effectiveness of that particular car maker’s distribution system. This special system characterized by sufficiently eye catching showrooms and more than adequate automobile repair shops soon became an indispensable business component attributed to all successful domestic car makers. All these elements interacting correctly resulted in a popular local outlet.

For all of this to occur efficiently certain other business requirements had to be resolved first. High operating expenses and high distribution costs topped that list of major problems needing quick resolution. Unlike other manufacturers, such as the clothing or furniture industries, the automotive business cannot suddenly readjust its current price levels to meet immediate customer needs and wants. It is not set up that way. Additionally, dealers cannot sell their many vehicles in nameless outlets scattered throughout a city or town. The public needs to see, touch and drive an automobile prior to purchasing it. That does not always hold true for merchandise in general. Other tricks of the retail trade, such as sliding price scales that enable manufactures to lessen current inventories by selling their overruns at cost, do not apply to the auto industry. Drastically lowering the price of cars does not translate into instance sales. Economic downturns or a saturated local market may make already volatile economic conditions even worse. Using jobbers or in-house buyers to promote certain less desirable autos over other more popular models has never worked well for this industry. The fact that many of the new automobiles stuck in inventories are quite similar in cost, design, options and size makes such retail practices both costly and impractical. Besides the inherent high expenses involved in stocking and selling automobiles, there are also other hidden costs not easily evident in other, outside retail enterprises. Those hidden costs cover the gamut beginning with production and ending with the final sale.

The speculative nature of the domestic auto industry also separates it from other retail ventures. It is a risky business to say the least in that it places the majority of automakers in an awkward financial position from the start. That rarely occurs with other large-scale manufacturers or major domestic retailers. Unlike other industries that routinely adjust their production schedules or modify their distribution networks to better accommodate current demand, car manufacturers do not have such options available to them. In the hope of satisfying growing consumer needs, domestic automakers produce thousands of vehicles annually. High volume production means that car manufacturers must continually play against the odds by using present market conditions to guess what next year’s sales volume might be. It is not an easy task to perform. Surprisingly, most domestic car companies are quite adept when it comes to projecting future sales based on current demand cycles. Being able to assuming the full financial brunt equated with the manufacturing and distributing of this high threshold commodity with the expressed intent of surpassing present profit levels is one thing, but being able to achieve that business goal year after year is incredible.

Like most large industries, domestic auto leaders are fully cognizant of the fact that their individual companies cannot incur large amounts of new debt, for any extended period, without attaining sizeable profits in return. That being the case, it is imperative for the dealer to sell as many vehicles as possible on a daily basis. If done correctly, the profits derived from those new car sales, will serve to offset the aforementioned debt much of it incurred during particularly slow periods. In a perfect world that would be exactly what would happen and it would occur in predictable, measurable business cycles. However, given the countless economic and monetary uncertainties of the present economy, such business maneuvers may well heighten, not lessen, growing anxiety on the part of local dealers.

Automotive leaders respond to contemporary economic and financial crises by spending countless hours analyzing their budgets to see where they might be able to cutback or eliminate certain items and programs. They also study past and current buying trends before initiating any important changes within their existing business structure or manufacturing cycle. Furthermore, their painstakingly evaluations of recent consumer trends have led many of them to champion the latest market strategies, whatever they might be, along with any recognized technical advances. Carefully monitored investigations of current business trends along with prudent budget cuts, whenever and wherever possible, have enabled many domestic car makers to fine-tune their enterprises successfully. Most importantly, it will enable them to better gauge customer buying preferences over the next three to five-year period.

Another effective business ploy used by contemporary auto dealers to investigate contemporary business conditions concentrates specifically on major corporate gains and losses over the past quarter century. The data they collect through this meticulous effort may not only offer some valuable new insight into what the future might hold for them; but also, reveal some of the most recent business trends affecting the industry in general and their manufacturing partners in particular. It also might furnish some new, potentially profitable alternatives to other, more staid business practices. The data collected might even prompt a careful review of current advertising strategies. In that case, they might want to reconsider which advertisements best suit their current needs and which ones, do not. That action, independent of all other business tactics under review at that juncture, might result in major strategic changes. For example, upcoming advertising campaigns might want to de-emphasize immediate, profit-oriented business goals preferring instead to concentrate on other, equally lucrative opportunities.

Those same marketing strategies might find it advantageous to focus more on how present day unsettling market conditions are presently influencing new car buying habits. Cost conscious automakers and their many distributors nationwide have always understand the importance of periodically reviewing, and when necessary, revising their current advertising and marketing strategies to better meet the changing needs of their customer-base. This began in the 1920s and 1930s when high profile advertisements first appeared in popular domestic magazines and newspapers. Proven advertising techniques set aside, the buying and selling of domestic autos has always represented a daunting business challenge for those engaged in it.

As was pointed out earlier, the auto industry had few business precedents to draw upon especially when it came to selling and servicing their very special high threshold commodity. One might have assumed that the earlier carriage and wagon manufacturers would have furnished a number of useful examples of successful sales and service techniques. After all, they dealt with some of the same economic and financial predicaments facing car makers later on. It seemed a logical assumption. However, the comparison between prototypes was not that clearly defined since few parallels seemed to exist. Unlike the factory-oriented 20th century automobile industry, the 19th century carriage and wagon business epitomized an artisan-inspired endeavor that remained closely tied to its pre-industrial American roots. That made a crucial difference. No economic or marketing rules existed beyond the universally accepted fundamentals applicable to every kind of business. [1] Car makers were truly on their-own in that regard.

Probing deeper, one soon discovers that individual carriage makers, with the help of a small group of local affluent investors, assumed the costly responsibility of building, selling and maintaining their many vehicles. No largescale investors, with their own personal business agenda, held sway in the prosperous 19th century carriage and wagon trade. That was not true in the auto industry where greedy investors, in an open and free market setting, frequently made and lost fortunes speculating on the future prospects of a specific automobile manufacture. Moreover, in pre-industrial America where numerous small towns and villages prided themselves on their close personal and professional ties, local business leaders enjoyed a decided economic advantage when it came to selling and servicing the products they manufactured.

The lack of extensive choice compelled the local citizenry to buy locally made items. However, limiting selection to local producers did not seem to bother them. Among those respectable small town business leaders and their many loyal customers, their word was their sacred bond. Reputation was everything in these tightly knit communities, and endearing personal traits enabled most customers to resolve any product-related complaints they might have in an amicable way. That kind of cordiality and personal concern to do right with their neighbors had all but disappeared in U.S. cities by the turn of the 20th century.

To ensure repeat business, most carriage and wagon manufacturers did their utmost to provide the best possible products and service available. Some companies including Dort, Durant and Studebaker had gained well-earned national reputations for manufacturing finely crafted carriages and durable wagons. A narrow group of highly innovative manufacturers had earned additional praise for the adroit way in which they used primitive forms of mass-production to ensure high quality vehicles at reasonable prices. Putting aside any new forms of manufacturing and service developed in the immediate post-Civil War years, the simple fact was that their homespun, less than sophisticated marketing techniques did not change greatly over the years. If leading 19th century carriage and wagon makers lacked urbane marketing skills, imagine what it must have been like for smaller enterprises engaged in that same field.

One might also assume that the informal business practices once practiced by successful 19th century carriage and wagon manufacturers would rapidly disappear once the need for their products and services became less imperative. That assumption is well founded. Gentlemen’s agreements might have been sufficient in early 19th century rural America, where one’s word was indeed one’s bond; but not so, in the erudite business climate that emerged throughout urban America at the turn of the 20th century. Courtesy of the Industrial Revolution, small town residents soon learned how larger scale enterprises functioned in an increasingly impersonal world. On a more positive note, most early 20th century industries, including the domestic auto business, successfully integrated the latest production modes and favored sales techniques to produce high quality commodities as well as first-rate customer service.

Further investigation suggests that the initial start-up costs for most locally orientated carriage and wagon manufacturers remained modest. Reasonable labor, manufacturing and distribution expenses, in conjunction with steady market returns, ensured high profit returns for most. If, in fact, that was in accordance with the accepted business practices of the day. Fierce competition, especially within congested areas, represented the greatest single obstacle to uninterrupted economic success. Those carriage and wagon producers repeatedly lowered labor and overhead costs, while continually expanding manufacturing capacities regardless of what was happening in the economy at any given moment. Unfortunately, those companies that hesitated to adopt the latest advances in manufacturing and distribution inevitably lost out to other, more aggressive nearby competitors. That remained true even when the local market had the capacity to accommodate other companies easily.

Any radical changes in business techniques extended far beyond labor and production costs for the carriage and wagon business. For example, some earlier, widely accepted practices such as occasional advertising through local newspapers no longer assured repeat business. Increasingly, the public demanded much more than just some sketchy references about the latest carriages and wagons for sale. They insisted that reputable manufacturers spell out in intimate detail the many advantages of owning and operating one of their carriages or wagons. At the turn of the last century, a new advertising technique that gained widespread popularity among buyers involved inviting perspective customers to visit their local carriage and wagon manufacturer with the intention of inspecting their products firsthand. This new marketing approach symbolized a major departure from previous traditions. Not only did seasoned manufacturers welcome potential buyers into their factories; but also, hired sales representatives were prepared to sell those vehicles on the spot. The extent of professionalism demonstrated by carriage and wagon manufacturers varied greatly base on size, location and customer-base. Previous business experience, both positive and negative, frequently determined the degree of marketing changes that a company was willing to institute at any given moment.

New marketing tactics underscored the breath and scope of the ever-changing 19th century carriage and wagon industry. Further modifications and refinements of traditionally accepted marketing strategies would have continued well into the 20th century whether the automotive industry had developed or not. Surprisingly, much of the sustained profit enjoyed by pioneers in the auto business owed very little to the successful marketing ploys first used by carriage and wagon manufacturers. It was a different time and place. What ultimately distinguished the automobile industry from its predecessors had very little to do with acceptance or rejection of 19th century business practices; but rather, the innovative ways in which shrewd car companies carefully built up on their-own economic legacy over time. High volume automobile production depended greatly on wide-scale business innovation at each-and-every stage of its development. Such innovation continues to affect worldwide markets today.

The domestic automobile industry represented one of the most successful new businesses to emerge from the late 19th century Industrial Revolution. Autos not only considerably shortened travel time between distant points; but also, afforded their riders a high degree of comfort, privacy and safety, something they had not experienced before. In spite of its obvious advantages, its sudden popularity posed a quandary for many automakers especially when it came to selling and servicing their very special new commodity. The less sophisticated operational strategies, perfected by carriage and wagon manufacturers, appeared to work quite well especially in outlying areas where out of necessity their small number of customers had to remain loyal. However, those same tactics failed miserably when applied to the budding auto industry. For example, leisurely sales techniques might have remained popular during the transition from horse drawn carriages to automobiles. However, time constraints and the auto industry’s incessant need to expand production capacities continually necessitated quick sales through specially imposed new car sales quotas. The days of leisurely buying reached an abrupt end. Other popular business ploys used in pre-industrial America, such as floating base item pricing, proved equally impractical for the new, fast-paced 20th century.

In the final analysis, the many costly materials and special lubricants so much a part of modern assembly line production, in combination with escalating costs in some of the other basics of the industry such as labor, shipping and vehicle preparation, led the majority of domestic carmakers to abandon outmoded practices that stemmed from the earlier carriage and wagon trade. From the start, the profit gains achieved by the majority of shrewd automakers far exceeded the more modest returns of contemporary carriage and wagon makers. Throughout it all, many pioneers in the automotive field remained unsure as to what exactly constituted effective sales practices especially over the long run. As was pointed out earlier in this writing, some carmakers believed that catalogue shopping represented the most effective way in which to sustain high volume sales. Their reasoning seemed plausible at first given the fact that many late 19th and early 20th shoppers regularly purchased large quantities of items from well-known suppliers such as Montgomery Ward and Sears & Roebuck. Even more to the point, the proven sales technique, perfected by those leading mail order houses, might have afforded regionally designated distributors the opportunity of selling automobiles to nearly everyone, even those in remote areas. Others involved directly in the auto business argued that renting space in a local department store represented another effective way in which to sell vehicles quickly.

If executed correctly, both techniques might have bolstered car sales appreciably especially during the early years; however, they came with some noticeable drawbacks. For example, those buying cars through a catalogue would never have the occasion of inspecting their vehicle prior to purchasing it. That meant that the buyer had to rely on the limited information provided them through that primary source. The pictures and written descriptions found in those catalogues might or might not properly describe the special features attributed to the advertised vehicle. Many buyers might love what they bought through the mail order process, while others might not. Those dissatisfied with their purchase had little recourse since it took weeks, if not months, to resolve any major problems related to shipment, quality or maintenance of the vehicle in question. Purchasing a new car through a department store might have certain advantages over buying from a catalogue in that participating retailers often displayed one or more cars. However, the high costs of displaying such vehicles, within a department store setting, prevented most retailers from hiring the necessary additional clerks to represent those manufacturers. That being the case, many department stores only provided the most basic information on the many cars they featured. Few of those retailers possessed the capabilities to sell the vehicles they exhibited.

The automotive industry soon discovered that marketing their autos through mail order services or department stores did not work very well. Sending mechanics out to customers to handle specific service needs was equally inefficient. Car manufactures knew they must develop their-own method to sell and service vehicles. Centrally located retail facilities that focused exclusively on selling and repairing car brands soon became the norm. Independent car distributors soon convinced most auto manufacturers to establish their-own sales and repair service networks. Those special networks initially consisted of individually owned and operated franchises. Franchised businesses were not something new in the U.S. Those business outlets had existed since the mid-19th century when Singer Sewing Machine Company set up its-own affiliated shops. Those special outlets sold and repaired their-own brand of sewing machines. Both Coca Cola and Rexall Drug companies soon joined that potentially very profitable bandwagon.

Being a recognized franchise afforded some tangible economic and financial benefits for participants who were willing to assume the financial risk entailed in investing in such an enterprise. First, for the parent company who sold the franchises it prompted a high degree of conformity and consistency in both products and services from their many recipients. Second, selling and servicing a desired commodity, such as a particular brand of automobile, soon created definitive benchmarks that held relevancy for both the corporation involved and its many successful franchise holders. Third, those business leaders who purchased a specific franchise from a well-known corporation knew from the start that they would enjoy marked advantages over other independents in that they alone represented a recognized national entity. Fourth, the more prestigious the make of automobile the better the chances for high profits. Fifth, franchise owners, with very rare exception, received all the necessary training and paraphernalia required to be identified with their new parent organization. Lastly, automobile manufacturers in order to stimulate business required all dealerships to have an allotted number of their new cars in inventory. Those automakers sold those vehicles to their dealers at reduced cost. [2]

H.W. Koller of Reading, PA opened up one of the first auto franchises in the U.S. in 1898. He sold and serviced cars manufactured by the Winton Motor Car Company. As was pointed out, early dealers often carried more than one name brand vehicle. Insufficient manufacturing capability and irregular deliveries prompted that action. Carrying more than one brand under a single roof appreciably increased the chances for higher profits. That idea had great merit especially in the early years. However, that thinking changed dramatically, by the time of the First World War, based in large measure on the extraordinary financial success of large corporations such as Ford Motor Company and General Motors.

In particular, the overwhelming popularity of the Ford Model T led automobile manufactures to reconsider what actually constituted effective distribution practices. The gradual reduction in the price of the Ford Model T, over the years, led Dearborn officials to modify their initial policies, rules and regulations especially those that applied to operating their growing number of local affiliates. The Model T’s phenomenal economic success set the pace for further system-wide expansion. Ford’s astute board members quickly realized that the company’s long-term financial success depended on continually expanding their core distribution network, while creating efficient regional offices that oversaw the daily activities occurring within their many dealerships.

Ford Motor Company, by 1913, boasted of branch offices in every U.S. community with more than a 1,000 persons. [3] This auto manufacturer demanded that its showrooms and repair shops remain separate in order to prevent potential buyers from seeing their Ford cars in pieces or over hear customer complaints. Prospective franchise holders needed to secure a facility and fulfill other business requirements prior to meeting with executives. Furthermore, Dearborn officials insisted that their many distributors maintain a well-stocked garage with a sufficient number of qualified mechanics. In those days, all dealerships included an office manager, bookkeeper and sales staff. [4] Corporate leaders reminded their many dealers that sales volume and location served as the primary criteria in determining the size of an office.

Ford executives also recommended that their distributors run full-page newspaper advertisements on a regular basis. Those advertisements emphasized the many advantages of buying and operating a Model T. Compliance to tough company rules continued to pay off well into the 1920s. The Ford Motor Company maintained a loyal customer-base into the Great Depression of the 1930s by offering reasonably priced cars and quality repair services. At one point, local dealers took promotions to a new high level by advertising half-price reductions on repairs. [5] Their slogan was direct and simple “Universal Service for the Universal Car, Ford the Sign of Good Service.” [6] Individual dealers prided themselves on their speedy service.

1933 Ford V-8
1933 Ford V-8

In January 1936, its Board of Directors unveiled a highly innovative financial package for those customers wishing to purchase a new Ford V-8. That particular model cost anywhere from $425 to $900 depending on its options. Through Ford’s Universal Credit Company, qualified buyers could now own that same Ford V-8 for only $25 a month. [7] Those paying higher down payments could reduce their payments even further. Monthly finance charges on those special automobiles averaged around 6% over a 12 month period. Any payment arrangements, made through Universal Credit, included the unpaid balance and any interest incurred over the specified lending period. A mandatory additional insurance policy covered both fire and theft. That policy also included a $50 deductible to handle collisions and accidental car damage.

During the late 1930s, Dearborn officials required both Ford and Lincoln dealerships to send their sales representatives to special training sessions held in Detroit. Those meetings focused primarily on new and effective ways in which to sell their many different cars. In an attempt to forge a tighter business connection between the corporation and its many dealers, following the Second World War, Cleveland’s Regional District Manager Ray Allen along with Vincent Bishop, Erwin Marquart and John Geking created their-own unique business organization called the “300 Club.” [8] Established in 1946, this group not only rewarded internal business efficiency; but also, promoted good will among locally based dealerships. The “300” stood for the number of dollars per unit sold by its various members. Those salespersons reaching that goal received valuable prizes at banquets held to commemorate their major achievements. Its success convinced Dearborn executives to promote similar clubs nationwide.

Ford Motor Company led Detroit’s Big Three when it sponsored a national safety inspection at its many dealers. [9] More than 900,000 car owners participated in that free checkup held in 1949. The new car sales race between Ford and Chevrolet to be the number one domestic auto producer heated up in the 1950s. [10] Although Chevrolet took the honors most years, it was not without a good fight. Under the insightful leadership of Henry Ford II, Detroit’s number two automaker posed a serious business threat to its chief rival. Ford sales increased significantly due in large part to its all-new, eye-catching car designs unveiled by corporate officials in 1952, 1955 and 1957. Its new 181 horsepower V-8 engine with its overhead valves soon became the envy of the entire automotive industry.

In terms of personal safety, Ford Motor Company led the pack by introducing seat belts for its various domestic passenger cars beginning in July 1955. Costing $11.95 a piece, these seat belts reduced the chance of fatal injuries by holding the motorists in their seats during an accident. [11] The public’s reluctance to purchase those seat belts did not discourage Dearborn executives who continued to publicize their advantages. Their efforts paid-off when the number of seat belts installed in various 1962 Ford models exceeded 21,000 a month. Interesting side note, Ford again led the industry in safety, in the 1990s, when the company introduced its own version of motorized seat belts that moved into place once the car door was secure and the ignition was on. [12]

Corporate officials announced a new internal inspection program intended to produce even higher quality automobiles starting in November 1957. Known as the “Quality Audit Program,” it authorized corporate auditors to inspect, at random, any car that had received the plant inspector’s approval. [13] Each auto inspected by those auditors underwent an extensive examination that covered over 1,500 items. Such scrutiny not only discovered major manufacturing flaws; but also, led to some very worthwhile recommendations designed to eliminate similar errors in the future. The auditors involved in this effort reported directly to quality control plant managers. [14] Ford Motor Company distance itself from its chief competitors when, in 1959, it unveiled a new comprehensive used car warranty. This special 30-day, 1,000 miles warrantee guaranteed a 50% price reduction on all used car repairs done through the distributor responsible for its sale. It excluded batteries, glass, radios, tires and tubes. Every used car sold through its authorized Ford or Edsel-Lincoln-Mercury dealerships received a thorough inspection prior to its sale. [15]

Corporate micromanagement, in the form of strict new car inventories along with slow turn-around time when it came to special orders, prompted a new round of dealer complaints in the early 1960s. It infuriated many dealers that they had to pay the factory upfront for every new car they received. The reluctance on the part of Ford Motor Company to issue their successful dealers the credit they needed in order to defray additional expenses only made their financial situation worse. Some distributors went so far as to propose that all new automobiles sold by them should come directly from the assembly line based on their submitted orders. Furthermore, corporate officials should not continue the unsavory business practice of over-inflating new car sales projections when determining the specific number of vehicles each dealership must stock at any given time. Had Dearborn adopted those practical suggestions, it would have greatly reduced overhead costs for many dealers by eliminating the need to invest heavily in large new car inventories in anticipation of a local market demand that might, or might not, be there.

Under this proposed business arrangement, dealerships would also have the option of selling their remaining demonstrator models at the end of the model year. [16] In a similar vein, some enlightened dealers suggested that Ford might consider supplying them with new car catalogues at the beginning of each new model year. Those catalogues would not only contain a wealth of information pertaining to the latest models coming out of Dearborn; but also, detailed descriptions of the many accessories, color options and price ranges currently available. The decreasing number of cars sold off the showroom floor indicated that change was in the offing although few experts could predict with any degree of accuracy as to what lay ahead for Detroit’s Big Three.

Community related service activities had always played a major role in Ford Motor Company’s business strategy. Its shrewd Board of Directors wholeheartedly supported a wide range of activities and programs anything that might improve the quality of life for that company’s many customers, families and friends. Such was the case in June 1961 when James O. Wright, the then Vice President of the Car and Truck Group at Ford Motor Company, announced double factory rebates for distributors that had voluntarily lent cars to high schools for their various driving education programs. [17] Special factory promotions, like that, provided Ford another platform in which to promote their latest models. However, that automaker’s commitment to the welfare of the local community extended far beyond such obvious self-promotional efforts. For example, the 1970s saw Cleveland’s Spitzer Ford buy some products from Tubs Chemical. That company employed first offenders, former drug addicts and welfare recipients as clerks and sales representatives. [18] Ford’s combination of worthwhile charitable events and self-promotional efforts brought new customers to their showrooms regularly. One event Ford Motor Company co-sponsored with the National Football League especially appealed to elementary school aged children. Called the punt, pass and kick competition, it encouraged young boys, between the ages of eight and eleven, to compete for all-expense paid visits to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH or a two-day trip to Washington, D.C. and the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield, MI. [19]

Its Board of Directors unveiled its latest car sensation the all-new Ford Mustang in April 1964. An affordable automobile with classic Ford styling, the Mustang became an instant moneymaker for the number two Detroit automaker. In fact, the company sold over 25,000 convertibles and hardtops in its first month. It cost the Ford Motor Company nearly $40,000,000 to develop it and that excluded an additional $10,000,000 earmarked for advertising. [20] Lee Iacocca played an instrumental role in its development. He gained the admiration of many in the automotive field when he led the fight to save the Chrysler Corporation from bankruptcy in the early 1980’s. [21] Reductions in federal excise taxes accounted for the much of Ford’s financial success in the 1960s. [22] Ford and Lincoln-Mercury showrooms overflowed with customers during those profitable years even during traditionally slow summer months.[23]

Ford Motor Company’s recent phenomenal business growth transcended its rank-and-file. Cleveland’s Hal Artz typified a highly successful Lincoln Mercury dealer who took full advantage of this sudden good fortune to debut its all-new $1,000,000 dealership located at 5930 Mayfield Road.

Hal Artz Lincoln Mercury Dealership
Hal Artz Lincoln Mercury Dealership

Opened in June 1969, this fully air-conditioned, six-acre facility soon became an essential component of the growing Mayfield Heights shopping district. [24] A direct challenger to other eastside Lincoln Mercury outlets on Broadway Avenue, Lee Road and Northfield Road, this dealership joined the prestigious ranks of other lucrative neighboring distributors such as Joe O’Brien Chevrolet, Freidman Buick, Mayfield Dodge and Marshall Ford. Hal Artz did very well from the first day he opened. [25] Hoping to bolster its sales even further for the 1972 model year, Hal Artz introduced a special three-year or 40,000 mile extended power train warrantee on select models. Qualified owners only paid $25 on warrantee repairs with that dealer furnishing the require parts as well as handling any additional labor costs. [26] Its continual financial success convinced Hal and Phillip Artz to open a new Pontiac dealership in Chardon, OH in 1974. [27] Three years later, a large, publicly owned company called Republic Industries purchased both Hal Artz Lincoln Mercury and one of its chief competitors Mullinax Ford. One of Cleveland’s leading auto dealers, Tom Ganley considered it a prudent move in that it provided both those dealers with additional investment capital quickly. [28]

Dearborn officials, in September 1966, unveiled a major breakthrough in warranty coverage that extended their current two-year or 24,000 miles car and truck warranty to five-year or 50,000 miles. That new protection program would also cover the power train. This plan would not only include the free replacement of the engine and drive shaft when necessary; but also, the rear axle and transmission all at no additional labor cost. [29] In the late 1960s, Ford Motor Company suggested that those affiliates experiencing a slump in new car sales, due to the recent recession, might want to reduce the prices on some of their more desirable models temporarily in order to reinvigorate sales. The sudden increase in sales volume resulting from these incredible bargains would undoubtedly help to offset any recent losses they might have incurred. Following that suggestion to its logical conclusion led Cleveland’s Spitzer Ford, in 1969, to offer a select group of brand new Falcons, Galaxie 500’s, L.T.D.’s, Mustangs and Thunderbirds staring at $2,599. [30]

Spitzer Ford Dealership
Spitzer Ford Dealership

As part of a national effort to improve Ford dealerships, its Board of Directors encouraged some of its largest dealerships to construct new facilities that would feature among other things the Diagnostic Service Centers. Those new technically sophisticated service centers would provide accurate information on a multitude of everyday vehicle problems.[31] Quality control issues did not plague the Ford Motor Company until February 1968 when the federal government recalled more than 41,000 vehicles. The culprit was a faulty bolt in the steering mechanism. [32] Ford was fortunate in that this recall only affected a select group of recently delivered cars with power steering. The number two Detroit automaker assumed all the costs involving in this major recall. A faulty steering column led to another recall in September 1972 that involved more than 900,000 automobiles. [33]

From the late 1950s to the mid-1980s, enterprising dealers sponsored a number of events directed towards enticing new customers into their showrooms. For example, the Cleveland-based Spitzer Auto Group, in February 1959, sponsored a two-day event called “Ladies Days.” Every woman visitor received a free orchid. [34] In April 1969, Graham Ford proudly sponsored a bridal fair. [35] Ganley Oldsmobile co-hosted a Maternity Fair at St. John and West Shore Hospital in April 1983. [36] The unprecedented financial success enjoyed by Ford and Lincoln Mercury divisions, throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, prompted its board to increase the number of its local affiliates significantly. Privately owned dealerships initially welcomed the news until they realized that Ford Motor Company planned to operate many of those outlets itself. A group of frustrated dealers decided to take matters into their own-hands and took Ford to court in September 1969. Led by Edward C. Rea of Pittsburgh, PA, these privately owned dealerships claimed that Dearborn executives did not have the legal authorization to sell autos directly to the public without their assistance.

Their well-staged protests leveled against their manufacturer symbolized much more than just a legal dispute over territorial and selling rights. The underlining reason prompting this suit had little to do with those issues. It concerned a much broader grievance that stemmed from Ford Motor Company’s reluctance to reimburse their prime distributors for warranty work they had performed on many of their new cars. [37] Those dealers also thoroughly hated the fact that board members had arbitrarily decided to raise fleet sales prices without consulting them first. That unmitigated gall on the part of the Board of Directors all but eliminated smaller dealerships from competing for that most lucrative component of the business.

Ford officials claimed that their plans had called for providing those new company-operated dealerships with a variety of special financial incentives not offered to other, privately owned franchises. Rea’s group viewed such capricious actions as a major breach in traditional distribution practices. The suit remained unresolved until 1972 when a U.S. District Court awarded Edward Rea $5,600,000 in punitive damages. Recent antitrust violations committed by the Ford Motor Company had prompted that most generous settlement by the court. [38] Edward Rea had alleged that officials had already established more than 70 company-owned agencies and had plans to open an additional 150 “dealer-development” outlets with the expressed intention of having those new distributors compete directly against privately held outlets.

On a more positive note, the Board of Directors announced, in February 1973, that their newest program called “No Unhappy Owner” was an immediate success. It included a written guarantee that backed up all repair work done by Ford dealers for up to 90 days or 4,000 miles, whichever came first. It applied to any-and-all repairs made by any of the more than 6,000 Ford or Lincoln Mercury dealerships coast to coast. [39] Corporate leaders further publicized the fact that all their mechanics must now pass a special certified training program. Its new Service All-Star Program also provided a number of other worthwhile customer services including a special dealership telephone directory. Ninety-nine percent of the customers surveyed were satisfied with those new programs. In May 1973, Ford Motor Company unveiled its own Service Convenience Card. [40] This credit card provided customers a 24-hour phone hotline that connected them directly to their nearest Ford dealership. The majority of their franchises also honored the other major credit cards of that day such as American Express, Bank Americard, Carte Blanche, Diners Club and MasterCard.

The success of those new Ford promotion efforts set aside, the number of automobiles sold by Detroit’s Big Three dropped appreciably from 1973 to 1979. That negative sales trend persisted even though the luxury market for domestic automobiles remained quite profitable. In fact, domestic car makers including Ford Motor Company could not produce luxury cars fast enough. (Figure 105) Many dealerships contended that the majority of their customers who purchased new luxury cars over less expensive models were playing against the odds. They were attempting to hedge their bets based on the uncertainties of the present economy. [41] The possibility of escalating fuel costs, in the late 1980s, did not seem to curb their enthusiasm when it came to purchasing high-priced new vehicles. According to many high volume dealers, the public assumed that most cars manufactured, in the mid to late 1980s, fulfilled the new rigid federal standards that included among other things fuel economy. They did not. In fact, luxury cars, of that era, had some of the worst fuel ratings ever recorded. The potentially high resale value of these luxury autos appeared to offset any inherent economic disadvantages in purchasing them. [42]

That being said more fuel-efficient smaller domestic vehicles did not sell very well in the domestic market. A skeptical buying public did not want them. Some highly innovative local dealerships attempted to offset recent new car sales losses by focusing their attention on other potentially lucrative aspects of their business such as their expanding parts departments. To illustrate this point, Cleveland’s Ganley Oldsmobile sold more than $2,000,000 worth of auto parts in 1980 alone. In fact, that particular dealer stocked nearly 14,000 different items including air filters, car bumpers, doors, fenders and nuts-and-bolts. [43] Ganley Oldsmobile also made a good deal of money from its service department as well as its leasing division.[44] Its auto leasing service prided itself on its wide range of makes and models available for immediate delivery. [45]

Being very much aware of its dwindling car sales, Detroit’s Big Three decided to take drastic action. Between 1975 and 1981, they eliminated more than 75 dealerships nationwide. Ford Motor Company suffered the least from those closures. It only shut down four distributors over that crucial six-year period. Part of Ford’s success during those dire economic times originated with its many popular gimmicks and special factory incentives. One of its most successful advertising campaigns debuted in April 1979. It told the buyer to forget about the list price and concentrate instead on the yellow starting sticker found on most new vehicles. [46] That yellow sticker represented its true price. Other cars not displaying yellow stickers cost hundreds of dollars more. [47]

The 1980s began with important breaking news. Maintenance costs for Ford and Lincoln Mercury vehicles had declined by more than 78% over the previous seven-years. [48] The buying public’s insistence on better-built automobiles had accounted for that significant decline in overall costs. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Detroit’s Big Three had anticipated a significant increase in domestic car sales; however, those predictions never panned out. Ford reported the company’s worst sales record ever in July 1980. With loses exceeding $468,000,000, Dearborn officials closed two assembly plants and furlough hundreds of employees. Corporate sales for the second quarter of 1980 had declined by 37% in just 2 months. [49] Officials warned of further closings and additional pay cuts if the current slump in new car sales did not end soon.

Hoping to reverse this negative trend in new auto sales, Ford executives, in August 1981, unveiled their latest promotional effort. Known as the Lifetime Service Guarantee, it covered virtually all parts and labor for the entire life of the automobile. However, this warrantee contained one caveat. The dealer responsible for the sale must also perform all the repairs. [50] Although favored by many Ford customers, who hailed it as an important breakthrough in consumer protection, it never really captured the imagination of the buying public in general. Further sale losses later that same year prompted the closing of another 282 outlets. As bad as that news was for the struggling Ford Motor Company at that juncture, General Motors suffered even greater losses that same year. It closed an additional 330 distributors. [51]

Less than two years later, Ford’s leadership suffered another financial crisis when federal officials announced a major recall. That recall involved more than 431,000 new vehicles. Numerous complaints about faulty brakes prompted this latest government action. Ford Motor Company argued that federal officials had not shown conclusively that the brakes in question posed any serious risk to drivers. [52] However, further investigation supported the government’s claim. Federal officials recalled a total of 1,600,000 Ford car and trucks in 1983, while General Motors called back 1,200,000 vehicles. [53] In an attempt to engage their many employees in different aspects of the manufacturing process, Ford Motor Company, in October 1983, encouraged its many affiliates to ask their employees for suggestions as to how they might improve overall efficiency. [54] Ford’s efforts produced some positive results that included a new method designed to speed up the ordering process for auto parts and accessories. New ideas, like that, had enabled Ford to keep its overhead costs down to a minimum even during times of unprecedented rising inflation. When General Motors and Chrysler, in January 1985, announced plans to raise their new car prices Ford responded by saying that it would keep its prices the same as last year’s. [55]

That unprecedented move to keep car prices down proved advantageous. While new car sales for General Motors fell by 13.9%, from mid-July 1984 to mid-July 1985, both Ford and Chrysler posted gains of 6.6% and 3.3% respectively. Over the previous year, General Motors total share of the auto market had dropped from 59.7% to 55.4%, while Ford increased from 22.8% 26.2% and Chrysler from 12.3% to 13.7%. Over that same period, Detroit’s Big Three increased its total production from 206, 589 units to 221,597 units with domestic car sales increasing by 1% from 4,659,195 to 4,705,590. [56] Nineteen Eighty-Five represented a watershed year for the domestic auto industry.

For the first time in modern memory, Detroit’s Big Three dedicated themselves to improving business efficiency without noticeably sacrificing quality customer service. One thing was becoming very clear industry-wide. All three domestic automakers must modernize their business approaches right now, if they hoped to survive the increasing stiff competition posed by leading import car companies. Some dealers went so far as to suggest to corporate officials that they completely scrap the current franchise system. Others took a more restrained approach by proposing that large volume dealerships start offering a full range of customer services emanating from designated satellite locations. Those outlying facilities would not only purchase and sell new and used vehicles; but also, perform simple car repairs on site. [57]

Under this new arrangement, a large central clearinghouse would handle the difficult repair problems. Such business changes, if implemented quickly, might have saved manufacturers and dealers a great deal of both time and money. An even stronger recommendation called for dealerships to stop selling and servicing a wide range of models manufactured by a single entity. Instead, they should carry a number of different brands of one kind of vehicle such as sedans or station wagons. Leading domestic auto manufacturers also considered the idea of establishing “modified car dealerships” that would be located in shopping malls. The Board of Directors at Ford Motor Company thought those ideas were intriguing; however, it did not rush to implement any of them. That rejection did not prevent board members from initiating their own business changes that began with new warranty programs.

In May 1985, both Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers started offering a wide array of free repair services as part of their new lifetime service guarantee. [58] Those services included such things as road testing all repaired autos, staying open later and returning all original auto parts to their owners. They would also conduct customer follow-up calls where sales and service representatives would address any concerns expressed by their car owners. Some loyal customers might have appreciated these new services; however, they did not resonate well with the public generally. In fact, auto buyers continued to shy away from Ford products. In an attempt to stimulate new car sales, local dealers, in January 1986, started offering special financing packages for qualified buyers. Under this arrangement, interest rates for select Ford Escort and Mercury Cougar models were as low as 6.9% and 8.5% respectively. [59]

The mid-1980s saw Ford Motor Company take definitive action geared towards enticing more women to buy their automobiles. [60] Recent studies had indicated that women represented the prime driving force in nearly 40% of all new car sales. That revelation convinced Detroit’s Big Three to finance a series of marketing campaigns aimed towards the specific needs and wants of the growing number of women car owners. The greatest single obstacle facing women when it came to purchasing a new vehicle had nothing to do with the automaker itself, but rather, the predominant male sales force. Many sales representatives did not give women buyers the kind of respect they deserved. Domestic auto manufacturers responded by sponsoring sensitivity training sessions for their sales representatives that focused on that very issue. Previous surveys had indicated that many women buyers were far more demanding when it came to purchasing a new vehicle than their male counterparts. Additionally, they tended to ask more questions and visited more showrooms than most of the men. Executives at Ford Motor Company addressed those major concerns at those focus sessions by first discussing women’s shopping habits and then some of the most effective marketing strategies guaranteed to ensure the deal. Dearborn took this initiative to the next level when it hired a number of well-qualified female consultants to assist in the designing of its more user-friendly, new automobiles.

Business relations between Detroit’s Big Three automakers and their many affiliates improved noticeably during the 1990s. The next decade experienced even greater cooperation between those groups. Greater teamwork between the factory and distributors worldwide had inspired this latest initiative. Ford Motor Company readily admitted that brand loyalty no longer guaranteed future new car sales. The blossoming world market for new autos, with its burgeoning demand for vast numbers of specially designed cars manufactured by competitors from overseas, posed a real threat to the future of the domestic automobile industry, an industry who was finding it increasingly difficult to bear up under this ceaseless business pressure exerted from abroad.

However, escalating pressure by foreign manufacturers on Detroit’s Big Three to follow their example did not mean that the high quality of domestic vehicles would suffer as a result. In fact, the exact opposite occurred. Superior technology, sophisticated new electronic components, universally made parts and seamless body construction had miraculously changed everything. New flexible manufacturing requirements and the ever-pressing compulsion to stay abreast of the latest advances in both production methods and customer demands meant that domestic manufacturers could no longer sit on their past laurels. They had to act decisively. As everyone in the field admitted, modern car buyers, with the help of verifiable, computer generated information sources, had instant access to the very best auto deals in town.

This ceaseless bombardment of accurate computer-based information, emulating from the early 21st century domestic automotive industry, resulted in a wide range of new expectations that came directly from the buying public. Over time, those earlier expectations hardened into unyielding certainties. Understanding the full magnitude and scope of changing market conditions, most import car dealerships adapted to them. However, domestic dealers were more reluctant to follow their example. In spite of their initial reluctance to change with the times, domestic car sales remained profitable right into the Millennium and that held firm even if the actual number of new vehicles sold in the domestic market fell short of earlier projected new car sales figures. The new, formable challenges posed by online used car superstores over the past several decades have not destabilize traditional auto dealerships, hardly. Detroit’s Big Three continue to meet the challenge they posed. Ford Motor Company, in particular, fully recognized the depth and magnitude of the changing business world around and responded accordingly.

In conjunction with its many distributors, Ford’s Board of Directors developed some very innovative solutions at the time of the Millennium intended to meet the many challenges of their foreign competitors. Their ideas ran the gamut. For example, some dealers believed that if they carried a wide range of competing companies that might actually serve to improve Ford and Lincoln Mercury sales by enticing more customers into their showrooms. Others argued that the solution to their business dilemma did not rest in selling more makes of cars; but rather, extending current warranties and offering better service departments with longer business hours. The mounting costs entailed in owning and operating the latest, high tech equipment along with extended warranties might have proven advantageous for large volume distributors, but not for smaller concerns, which were governed by much tighter annual budgets and higher overhead costs. At the turn of this century, some analysts went so far as to predict that the high costs of owning and operating the latest top of the line machinery might result in the closing of many non-affiliated neighborhood garages and independent service centers.

Other shrewd distributors concluded that their present problem extended far beyond warranty restrictions, expensive new machinery and state-of-the-art service departments. The buying public clamored for a host of other new dealership amenities often considered out of reach by modestly profitable outlets. Those amenities included spacious customer waiting facilities featuring a wide array of personal conveniences. The majority of dealerships responded to corporate recommendations by upgrading their sites as much as possible as quickly as possible. Some of those conveniences included new, brightly lighted showrooms, well-appointed waiting rooms and spacious bathrooms along with free beverages and snacks. Customers also enjoyed some of their favorite programs from new, large screen, stereo equipped televisions, while listening to popular, upbeat music emanating from surrounding multidimensional stereo systems. Recent amenities have gone far beyond that to include special coupons and rebates, dry cleaning services, mobile service technicians, pick up and valet service, specialty repair shops and universal Wi-Fi. Ford Motor Company also started to offer new on-site financial services. Dearborn has added a new twist to its traditional marketing strategies by sponsoring an educational endowment fund dedicated to the memory of its Board Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Henry Ford II who had died in October 1987. Eleven Greater Cleveland dealers created their-own special $10,000 scholarship program for qualified students. The Cleveland Foundation distributes funds through its Fenn Educational Fund. [61]

Ford Motor Company has had the distinction of being the best-selling domestic car brand for the last eight consecutive years. This is no accident. Much of its recent success stems from its high quality vehicles. Special financial packages also help this corporation it to achieve its goal. Case in point, Cleveland based Ganley Ford who offers “peace of mind” for those qualified buyers who suddenly lose their job after recently purchasing a vehicle from them. Under this arrangement, Ganley Ford will cover up to six car payments over the first two years of ownership as long as the purchaser properly documents his or hers job loss. This local dealership has worked out a deal with a local insurance provider to cover the added costs. [62]

Through copious hours of research, that include detailed customer surveys and meticulous marketing studies that reveal the latest trends within the field, Ford Motor Company has been able to retain its position as the number one domestic automaker. Its dedicated dealers are its heart and soul. They are what the public deals with regularly which means that those dealerships set the pace and tone for everything that transpires within their premises. These outlets truly serve as the intermediary between the buying public and this popular domestic manufacturer. Ford and Lincoln dealerships fully recognize the unrelenting competition waged by both domestic and foreign car manufacturers. The business support that emanates on a daily basis from Dearborn enables their many distributors to fulfill the multitude of business obligations they owe their manufacture and the buying public. Trust has enabled that highly intricate business relationship between the Ford Motor Company and its many dealers to work so successfully for more than one-hundred years.


  1. “Leading Centers of the Industry, A Microcosmic History of the Carriage Industry of the United States A Few Leading Carriage Centers,” Hub, (October 1897) 420-430), http://carriagenuseumlibrary.org.
  2. NADA Auto Retailing Why the Franchise System Works Best,” http://www.nada.org/GetTheFacts.com.
  3. Lawrence H. Selzer, A Financial History of the American Automobile Industry, A Study of the Ways in which the Leading American Producers of Automobiles Have Met Their Capital Requirements, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1928), 98.
  4. Ibid. 99.
  5. “Ford Owners Save Money Nearly 50% Saved,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 6, 1935.
  6. “Universal Service for the Universal Car, Ford Motor Company,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 12, 1935.
  7. “Ford Sells Cars on Easier Terms,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 5, 1936.
  8. “Ford ‘300 Club’ Idea, Born Here, Accepted Nationally,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 14, 1947.
  9. Vance Kramer, “Auto Industry Wins Pat on Back for Traffic Toll Drop,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 25, 1949.
  10. David J. Wilkie, “Ford Chevrolet Race is Closer,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 14, 1954.
  11. “Ford Announces Price of Optional Seat Belts,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 17, 1955.
  12. Christopher Jensen, “GM Betting On Brakes Instead of Air Bags,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 22, 1991.
  13. “Quality and Long Life Aim of Auto Industry,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 17, 1960.
  14. Harry G. Linge, “Quality Audit Plan Is Important Step,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 17, 1957.
  15. “Warranty Plan Covers Used Cars,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 12, 1959.
  16. Harry G. Linge, “Hits at Old-Fashioned Inventory Practices,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 25, 1960.
  17. “Rebates Doubled to Sponsors of Driver Training,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 8, 1961.
  18. Terry Pederson, “Enlightened Firms here Hiring first Offenders, Welfare Clients,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer October 28 1973.
  19. Ford Dealers Are Testing Youths’ “PPK” Ability,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 4, 1964.
  20. “Ford is Kicking Its Heels Over Success of Mustang,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 7, 1964.
  21. “Chrysler Dealers Expect More Changes,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 17, 1992.
  22. “Tax Cut Savings Spur Auto Sales,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 25, 1965.
  23. Harry G. Linge, “Dealerships Match Ford Productivity,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 3, 1965.
  24. “Hal Artz Opens New Lincoln-Mercury Agency,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 16, 1969.
  25. “Mayfield Auto Row Save More Cleveland’s Top 5 Dealers,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 6, 1971.
  26. “Hal Artz Continues Warranty On 1973 Models,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 29, 1972).
  27. “Hal Artz opens Pontiac Dealership,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 3, 1974.
  28. Donald Sabath, “Car Buyers Might Own Shares in Dealerships, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 9, 1997.
  29. “Ford Motor Company Announces A New Standard in Automotive Warranties for all its 1967 Cars and Light Trucks,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 4, 1966.
  30. “Better Than Close-Out Savings On All Remaining 1969’s” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 7, 1969.
  31. Harry G. Linge, “Diagnostic Centers Popping Up All Over,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 19, 1966.
  32. “Ford Recalls 41,000 Cars,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 27, 1968.
  33. “Ford Recalls 900,000 Cars,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 22, 1972.
  34. “Headlights,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 22, 1959.
  35. “Graham Ford Offers Bridal Fair,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 14, 1969.
  36. “Maternity Fair,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 13, 1983.
  37. “Ford Motor Co. Sued by 200 N.J. Dealers,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 3, 1969.
  38. “Car Dealer Suing Ford Awarded $5.6.Million,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 27, 1972.
  39. John Henahan, ”Service Wins New Friends for Ford,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 18, 1973.
  40. “Now if a Ford, Mercury or Lincoln Owner Needs Help When He’s On the Road, He Can Call for It.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 27, 1973.
  41. Donald Sabath, “They’re taking the high road,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 10, 1979.
  42. Don Sabath, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 2, 1987)
  43. Thomas Gerdel, “Parts business is kept afloat amid sinking new-car sale,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 20, 1980.
  44. “How Does a Car Dealership Work?” https://www.quora.com.
  45. “Ganley leasing has rapid growth,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 30, 1982) “Combining the new with the Olds,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 28, 1982.
  46. “Marshall Ford puts an end to the new car ‘hassle-haggle’” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 12, 1979.
  47. Ibid.
  48. “Ford’s 1980 Scheduled Maintenance Costs Are To Decline Sharply,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 8, 1980.
  49. “Auto Industry is Spinning its Wheels,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 30, 1980.
  50. David Sabath, “Ford tests lifetime guarantee on parts,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 28, 1981.
  51. Fewer dealers handling U.S. cars,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 16, 1981.
  52. “Ford balks at recalling 431,000 cars for repairs,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 28, 1983.
  53. “9 million cars recalled in 1983,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 1, 1984.
  54. “Ford dealers give workers a say,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 5, 1983.
  55. “GM and Chrysler Corp. have increased prices!” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 10, 1985.
  56. Thomas Gerdel, “Dealer puts his hopes in foreign cars,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 25, 1985.
  57. Christopher Jensen, “How cars are sold adds much to the price,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 9, 1985.
  58. “We’re Listening!” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 18, 1985.
  59. “Bud Brady Cuts Ford’s Rate to the Bone!” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 2, 1985) “Cross Roads Test Market,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 2, 1985.
  60. John Holusha, “Automakers increase aim of sales pitch to women buyers,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 30, 1985.
  61. Don Sabath, “Shortages won’t delay emission testing,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 8, 1987.
  62. Robert Schoenberger, “Ganley Ford deal aims to ease buyer’s fears,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 25, 2009.