* Ford program could cost more than $2 billion
* Ford hopes all 3,100 of its U.S. dealers participate
* Much of program to be spent on digital upgrades
By Bernie Woodall
ORLANDO, Fla., Feb 10 Ford Motor Co will
offer dollar-for-dollar matching funds to its 3,100 U.S. dealers
to upgrade their shops, from new construction to improved
digital programs, Ford executives said on Sunday.
Jim Farley, Ford's global chief for sales, service and
marketing, said he hopes all of Ford's U.S. dealers will
Farley declined to say how much they expect Ford to spend on
If all 3,100 dealers enroll and sign letters of intent in
2013 to make the upgrades, it could cost Ford as much as $2.33
billion in matching funds.
The offer is good for any upgrades planned during 2013,
which must be approved by Ford, said Ken Czubay, head of U.S.
sales, service and marketing for the Detroit-area automaker.
Ford will meet individually with dealers who have recently
undertaken expensive upgrades, Czubay said.
The upgrade program is not tied to sales or performance of
Farley emphasized that a "very significant portion" of the
money Ford will spend will be to enhance customer digital
experiences. Much of it will be spent to help customers use
tablet computers to liaise with dealerships.
Most automakers have added an array of improvements over the
past few decades to make customers more comfortable, such as
plush waiting rooms with free food and beverages.
The Ford program is clearly not all about new construction,
Czubay and Farley told reporters after a meeting of its dealers
at the National Automobile Dealers Association annual
"This is about making sure the customers (who) get in the
store, get in the service department have a great experience,"
Farley said. "It's not about beautiful brand signs and what the
dealership looks like on the outside."