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Ford seeks to consolidate its U.S. dealerships

Ford Motor Co., would like to reduce its total number of U.S. auto dealerships to 3,000, Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president of global marketing, sales and service said Tuesday at an investor conference inSan Francisco.

At the end of 2009, Ford had 3,553 dealers in the U.S., but the company is discontinuing its Mercury brand, which will make it difficult for some of Ford's 276 stand-alone Lincoln Mercury dealers to survive.

Farley said Ford is better able to encourage its dealers to consolidate now because its relationship with dealers has improved in recent years.

"The dealers are full partners in every decision the company makes," Farley said at a Bank of America investor conference. "When you are trying to consolidate your network from 6,000 down to 3,000, the dealers are on your side, and they will help you participate in the consolidation."

Farley also said nearly half of the company's marketing budget is spent on experiential and social media.

The success of Ford's Fiesta Movement campaign, Farley said, has caused Ford to permanently transform its new vehicle marketing strategy.

With Fiesta Movement, Ford gave cars to 100 agents for six months and encouraged them to post pictures and comments online.

"Fiesta Movement has really changed our mind with how we go to market with vehicles," Farley said. "It is so efficient compared to going out to the networks and buying huge media buys for two months."

- Detroit Free Press

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