With this years CES happening right now and all of the news about future technology today, from several of the worlds prominent automakers, I thought it might be prudent to let you in on some information you may not have and would find interesting about some of the players and their past plans and actions.
Most specifically in this article, Ford, if you couldn’t tell, is the subject. I’m not sure entirely what Ford is doing or announcing at CES 2016 but I’m sure it will have something to do with the new GT and Le Mans and, the rumors circulating that Ford and Google will partner to develop a new car that is autonomous.
The reason I bring this up is the actual case study and discussions that took place between Ford and this company(see below) several years a go now that had a very similar vibe and intent: just minus the autonomous bit.
Yes, Best Buy! Ford and Best Buy explored the idea of selling a, just one model to start, Ford product on Best Buy premises. Through all that I know it was an existing product, most likely the Fiesta or Focus, but built to BB’s specifications.
This is where it started to get complicated: Those secifications included an empty dash and various other ‘empty’ placements in the vehicle so that BB could install after market and or custom accesories: you know, like the ones they sell in store.
That sounds simple enough but if you’re Ford and you make money off of the components you put into these cars to start with, then you are losing those profits.
So things are off to a rocky start. Then we get to production issues. If you are in any way involved in the line production of vehicles then you know that anything that sits outside “THE PLAN” can throw the entire line and facility into chaos.
Essentially what BB wanted was Ford to sell them units with the dash and dash components removed. Taking selected vehicles in line and either removing or not installing items, again sounds simple enough but under current production practices and volumes, it’s actually a huge deal and can really add complication and expense to the process.
Problem number 2: I don’t think this was much of a problem and given the relatively small numbers that BB was thinking it could or wanted to sell, convincing consumers that BB was a destination to buy your new car was the next hurdle. Would you really buy your next car from these guys?
Well that’s not fair but it’s funny. There was a real question though as to whether or not people would actually buy their next car at a BB store. Would BB service the car? Is the warranty through BB or Ford and or combined? Does it void the warranty if I change too much or certain items on the BB Ford?
There were several other questions, but truthfully, I didn’t think these were unclimbable mountains to overcome. As for the question of whether people would buy their new car at BB: well I think that depended upon your age, your location and whether or not you were an enthusiast like us or you didn’t care one iota about the traditional sales model. I think there are plenty of people who would rather leave the dealership experience in the past where it may belong.
Third problem and it’s related to number 2: the dealers themselves!
What really brought this plan to a halt wasn’t public perception, or the analytics that derived that opinion. Not the fact that these cars was to be electric and BB stores would all put in charging stations or any of that nonsense. No, it was the dealer association being upset that it’s members, the Ford dealers themselves, would have to compete with another sales model, force and product that they didn’t have access to or couldn’t sell on their lots.
Essentially Ford dealers would have to now compete with another Ford dealer and potentially lose sales to BB for the same badge, not the same product but similar enough to justifiably make them upset.
And that is why all of this talk about Ford and Google partnering to develop a new, autonomous or not, car is just silly in my opinion. It can be done and while there are similarities in these cases, clearly the hurdles are not small and are filled with massive and expensive complications that only law makers and lawyers themselves can begin to address and solve.
Ford will continue to make Ford vehicles for Ford dealers.
Google, or any other ‘want to be car manufacturer or company’ will have to do it on their own or find 3rd party partners like Valmet or Magna to do their production, or go it alone.
I’m involved with such a product and project now and there is almost no chance in hell that we will or can partner with the Ford’s of the world and not even a company the size, scope and power of Google can accomplish that. Hell, I didn’t even talk about the current fight Ford is in with Google and Apple over proprietary information and access to services within the car itself and it’s occupants. That’s a story for another blog post.
Thanks for reading,,,,,,