It looks like Ford is accelerating its push to get you online.
In 2021 Ford made a commitment to bringing more online ordering for its trucks and SUVs. It makes some sense for Ford to allow customers to build their trucks online rather than waiting for the right one to show up at your local dealer or scouring the internet for the one you want and driving several hundred miles to find one two towns away.
The chip shortage has already caused Ford to make new Lincoln Navigators order-only. The 2022 Maverick is sold out so your only way to get one is to search for one in a rapidly-dwindling dealer inventory or order your dream truck at ford.com.
Why is Ford moving to the online ordering model?
Why? Last year CEO Jim Farley told Reuters that the pandemic changed how people shop for trucks and that he’d rather not see trucks sit on a dealer’s lot for up to two months. He wants to move trucks.
That makes sense. During the pandemic, all of us got more used to buying everything online and waiting a few days for our stuff to arrive. Why not order a truck online, too?
Also, when a truck sits on a dealer’s lot for several weeks, that means that the company has to spend more money on incentives to move the vehicle. If Ford already knows what you want it won’t build trucks that are only close to what you want.
It’s not new at all. Nissan is making a big push for online ordering, too.
Tesla and Rivian only sell directly to consumers
Have you ever been to a Tesla dealership? Nope. They don’t have any. Instead, Teslas are sold online or through a kiosk at a “showroom.” If you want to test drive a Tesla, good luck. Most showrooms don’t have any. Instead, you have to use a service like Turo.com to rent a Tesla to see how it drives.
Rivian also uses a direct-to-consumer model. If you want an R1T electric truck or R1S electric SUV, you have to go online to order one.
In many states you MUST buy a new car from a dealership. States have what are called franchise laws that protect dealers, and all of their employees, from unfair competition. It also means it’s nearly impossible in some places to get your car serviced. There is a healthy debate on the issue that the FTC and others are weighing in on.
When you buy a car from Ford online you pick it up at your local dealer. That’s how other companies manage online orders, too.
In most other countries you can only order your car
Other countries don’t have dealers, or franchise laws, like the U.S does. Instead, if you go to your local Ford dealership in Madrid or Rome you can kick the tires and maybe go on a test drive, but you can’t just drive off with your Mondeo or Puma. Instead, you order it.
European car dealers typically keep just a handful of examples of cars on the lot. They expect you to order one. You test drive what they have on the lot, then work with someone to specify options. In two weeks your car shows up.