Ford CEO Jim Farley wants to move electric car sales online

Automakers know your least favorite part of the shopping experience: dealing with dealerships. Salespeople are aggressive whether contact occurs through an in-person meeting, phone, email, or text message. Nothing dulls the excitement of buying a new car like filling out a mountain of paperwork. And dealers are now making record profits with huge profit margins due to current industry supply and demand issues.

Ford wants to change that. At Bernstein’s Strategic Decisions Conference, CEO Jim Farley expressed his desire to move electric vehicle sales out of the traditional dealership model. “We have to move to a non-negotiated price,” Farley said. “We have to go 100% online.”

Dealers would not disappear according to Farley’s vision. They would become pickup, delivery and service centers. Its strong dealer network is a strategic advantage for Ford when selling electric vehicles over electric startups. If you are looking to expand your fleet, Ford has a network of approximately 3,000 dealerships where you will be to get a vehicle repaired. Rivian currently has less than 20 locations.

Farley’s electric vehicle sales model remains an aspiration, not a formalized Ford plan. That decision could get tricky in some states like Michigan, where the automakers themselves have promoted laws prohibiting the direct sale and service of vehicles, preventing Tesla from fully establishing themselves. And any significant change in the operations of a massive, well-established company like Ford would take time to implement.

Ford isn’t the only automaker to consider this issue. Volvo is turning to online sales with its electric cars. You can only buy C40 Recharge and Polestar vehicles online. Mercedes is set to push significantly towards online direct sales where possible. VW dealers fear the new Scout brand of off-road pickup trucks and SUVs will bypass them entirely.

Ford may not have a no-frills online retail solution yet. But with epic dealer profit margins pushing the F-150 Lightning far beyond the price of its target customer base, it’s no surprise that Ford is interested in finding one.


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