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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

An Open Letter To Bill Ford Jr.

CC: Incoming Ford CEO Alan Mulally
CC: Tom Wood: owner of Tom Wood Ford

Dear Ford Motor Company Chairman Bill Ford,

I write this to you in the hopes that your company will learn from this problem and be better for it. With the enactment of Way Forward 2.0 Ford is cutting 14,000 salaried positions, closing 9 North America plants, and shedding a to be determined number of hourly positions. It is obvious Ford can use a few car sales now. Two major things are required for that: 1) a more compelling product line and 2) a sales staff that is willing to do what it takes to please potential customers. Issue #1 is a letter for another time. Issue #2 I will discuss now.

The story begins with the Pillar Of Hoosier Centrism being in a family way. With 2 children POHC and his wife, The Boss, decided it was time to acquire a minivan. A list of the usual suspects was created: Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest, the Kia/Hyundai twins, and for something a little different the Ford Freestyle crossover/station wagon. I was to tag along and be a second opinion/evaluator. I'm very good at finding buttons, knobs, latches, and other assorted mechanicals to push, prod, or pull.

After a day and a half of observing and test driving minivans the Pillar Of Hoosier Centrism and I arrived at the local Tom Wood Ford dealership. A large man ambled or slithered his way towards us. This man never introduced himself or found out our names. He simply asked if there was someone he could get for us or something we would like to see. We said we wanted to see some Freestyles. I realize Tom Wood Ford is a large dealership. After a few steps I spotted about 20 Freestyles parked together. The salesman slithered his way past the first few and Pillar had to state, "Here they are!"

The salesman never asked what our plans were for that day. You could feel the game of try to sell them something today. I'm sorry but the plan was test drive all options and weed out the lesser vehicles from the list. Upon the weeding The Boss will be participating in the vehicle decision. Purchasing a vehicle that day was impossible as half of the decision making authority was at home. A gold Freestyle was selected for the test drive.

The Freestyle has been impressive at auto shows. It is a substantial vehicle was great people and cargo carrying abilities. The interior finish is a step up from previous generations of Ford products. However a test drive is necessary to see if it'll perform to an acceptable standard.

After waiting 10 minutes in the brisk gale force winds our nameless salesman lumbered out and proclaimed he couldn't find the keys to that vehicle. In shock we suggested driving the vehicle next to our stranded keyless gold Freestyle. Nameless wonder dutifully wrote down the VIN to acquire the keys. I was in lockstep behind him to see if I could keep an eye on things.

Inside the warm dealership yet another salesman talked with us. That was fine as salesman #2 was a knowledgeable spokesperson and fun to be around. The fact we were ogling a Ford GT worth a quarter-million dollars helped. Nameless Salesman #1 slithered back out and apologized about his inability to find the keys to Freestyle #2. O.M.G. what are those salesmen doing with those keys? Mr. Ford are your plants producing cars, but not the keys?

This incident is a microcosm of the American auto industry at this time.

Mr. Ford, your company can use any sale it can get. Salesmen that are slick, unfriendly, and incompetent are of no use to you. It is my regret to inform you that POHC and I crossed the Freestyle off the list without even a test drive to compare it's worthiness to the competition.

Former Ford Fans

PS: Tom Wood, your Nissan dealership is almost as incompetent as your Ford dealership. It required two trips to even get into a Quest minivan. Your staff had the attitude of not wanting to sale the fugly vehicles. POHC and I were handed off between two different salesmen on our second visit and spent over 20 minutes inside waiting for a minivan to appear by the side door. I have no idea how your company stays in business when your sales staff exhibits such poor customer service. The concierge appeared to be the only person who knew what he was doing.

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