Ford is running a special on face-lifts.
The automaker's customers in this case are Ford dealers, including several in central Ohio, which plan to take advantage of the offer to cover half of the cost of remodeling, up to $1.5 million.
Bob-Boyd Ford in Lancaster and Ricart Ford in Groveport are among the franchises that have signed up for the deal, which the automaker announced last week. Dealers need to commit to the work by the end of the year to be eligible.
The opportunity is so good that "You can't say no to it," said Rhett Ricart, co-owner of Ricart Ford. He will meet with architects in the next few weeks and plans to begin construction as soon as the fall.
This is a step in a larger strategy by each of the Big Three -- Ford, Chrysler and General Motors -- to modernize dealer networks that lack the uniform appearance of brands such as Honda and Toyota.
"Even though Ford has improved quite a bit in the last few years, they're not necessarily on top," said Jesse Toprak, an analyst for Truecar.com. "Their products have improved, but the customer experience has a ways to go."
Ford said it will spend up to $750,000 per store, which would be matched by an equal amount from the dealer. That could lead to a substantial cost in the aggregate, considering that Ford has more than 3,000 dealerships nationwide; the company has not said how much it expects to spend.
Several central Ohio dealers recently finished big projects or are in the middle of remodeling, including Germain Ford on the Northwest Side and Krieger Ford on the North Side. They might not benefit from this new deal, but they probably received other incentives, such as interest-free loans, Ford has said.
Byers Auto Group remodeled its Ford store in Delaware two years ago, so it will not take advantage of the current deal, said George Byers Kauffman, vice president of the Columbus company.
The Ford offer is "one of the more aggressive incentive programs I've ever seen," he said. That means a lot coming from him, considering that Byers sells 16 brands, including products from each of the Big Three and Toyota.
Bob-Boyd hasn't done a major remodeling of its Ford dealership since it bought the building in 1994, said co-owner Bobby Dawes.
Dawes said his store will use Ford's incentive, though he did not have a timetable.
Ford has asked dealers to follow a series of guidelines for the outside and inside of the independently owned retail locations, part of a look the company calls Ford Trustmark Design.
The automaker decided to offer matching funds this year because average dealer profits are the highest on record, so there are resources available to make an investment like this, said Elizabeth Weigandt, a Ford spokeswoman.
"Although this is a new program, we don't have a one-size-fits-all facility program for our dealers," she said in an email. "Our dealers recognize that facilities are an important part of the customer experience and we agree that facility programs need to make good business sense and benefit the customer."
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