Mr. Mulally: Don't Sell Fords, Try To Buy One. [Archive] - Ford Inside News Community

: Mr. Mulally: Don't Sell Fords, Try To Buy One.

05-29-2007, 02:56 PM
A Commentary From Automotive News:

Mr. Mulally: Don't sell Fords; try to buy one
The perfect Mustang may not be enough to seal the deal

Steven Cole Smith

Automotive News | 1:00 am, May 28, 2007

At the NADA convention this year, Ford CEO Alan Mulally told dealers that he planned to spend some time selling cars at dealerships. He did that very thing at Galpin Motors near Los Angeles and at Village Ford in Dearborn, Mich. And, of course, it resulted in some precious photo opportunities.

I submit that if Mulally wants to get a feel for the retail side of Ford, he should spend a little time, preferably incognito, on the other side of the desk.

I did, and here's my story.

My wife, Amy, needed a new car. She decided she wanted a Ford Mustang. So we visited some Ford dealerships.

Dealership No. 1 had a Mustang we liked reasonably well. We sat down with the young salesman, ready to buy.

He spent the usual 10 minutes conferring with the sales manager, then came back and said, "We're prepared to give you a $1,000 discount on this car."

Not a bad place to start, I figured: With Ford's $1,000 cash rebate, another $1,000 gets us in the ballpark.

"No," he said. "The $1,000 discount is the same thing as the rebate. We don't go below that."

Really? With Mustang sales down 16.8 percent this year, the rebate is all I can expect? Yes, he said. So we walked out.

Not negotiable? Ha!

On to dealership No. 2. We had to fill out a personal questionnaire at the door, after which we were assigned a salesman, who made us uncomfortable, and the whole atmosphere felt creepy. We left.

At dealership No. 3, each vehicle carried two supplemental stickers: $595 for sealant and, I think, $195 for eighth-inch-tape pinstriping, representing a markup for that alone of $185 -- I have pinstriped lots of cars.

Those add-ons were nonnegotiable, the salesman said. Actually, they are, I said, and we negotiated the door.

On to No. 4, a dealership that has changed hands at least three times in four years. The place did not inspire confidence.

The dealership did, however, have the perfect Mustang: white, V-6, automatic, Pony package, leather, with a sticker of $23,320.

We wanted to test-drive it. The battery was dead. The salesman had two of those little portable battery packs, but they were dead, too. He had no jumper cables. It was a Saturday afternoon, so no one was in the service department.

Even with that, I was ready to buy. With the rebate and a discount, they wanted to sell it for about $21,100, plus a dealer fee that I thought was excessive. We negotiated that.

One stipulation: Swap the tires and wheels from another V-6 Mustang to our V-6 Mustang. Both were premium wheels; I just liked the other ones better. They agreed, but it would cost another $600. For that, I said, I get both sets, right? Wrong.

Ford CAN do it

So that was it. For the 90 minutes we were there, we were the only deal working. The sales manager never came out from behind his glass wall; he just kept sending out this plucky salesman, who had been there one week and had never sold new cars, to do the negotiating.

Four strikes, and Ford was out. We went to the local Mini dealership, got a discount off sticker I was pleased with, plus a bottle of cold water and free cookies. And half an hour later, we left with a new Mini Cooper.

In more than 20 years of reviewing and writing about cars, I have often been accused of being anti-American, pro-import. In this case, we tried quite hard to buy American and couldn't.

That is not to say that sometimes, the domestics -- Ford included -- don't get it right.

A few years ago, I logged on to, the company's excellent consumer Web site. I found a Ford F-150 I liked at a nearby dealership. I e-mailed the dealership's Internet sales manager. He came back with a fair price.

I went to his office, and never have I had such a good buying experience.

So why didn't I go back there for a Mustang?

I did. That salesman was long gone. And the guy who replaced him -- well, let's just say Ford struck out with five dealerships, not just four.

I'm glad Alan Mulally wants to know how cars are sold. If he could learn how cars are purchased -- or not purchased -- the company might be better off.

Steven Cole Smith is the automotive editor of the Orlando Sentinel.

05-29-2007, 03:46 PM
If only for this read, I hope that Mulally reads Automotive News.

05-29-2007, 05:16 PM
...I have often been accused of being anti-American, pro-import...

All too frequently it seems the dealers are the ones that are anti-American/pro-import...

Tho in fairness, the import dealers aren't any different - from ok/good to Awful Beyond Belief!
(I will NEVER buy another Nissan due to my dealer experience. That's not rational/logical perhaps but That's The Way It IS!)

I gotta believe that after the UAW has been un-FFubar-ed (ie made reasonably-eFFicient beyond all recognition),
dealerships will be the next target & their Franchise-Stranglehold on the mfgs will be un-written.