2012 Ford Focus Electric

Ford requiring dealer certification to sell Ford Focus Electric, later this spring

As the Ford Focus Electric prepares to enter dealer show-rooms, Ford is requiring prospective dealers to become certified as being ready to sell electric cars.

The Ford Focus Electric is due to go on sale later this summer starting in California, New York and New Jersey. In the meantime Ford is requiring dealers who wish to sell the electric car, to undergo a certification program that includes energy audits and upgrades to the dealership's facilities.

The Ford Focus Electric is a pure electric version of the Ford Focus. It is built on the same assembly line as other Ford Focus models, and is simply built by installing a different drive train, meaning the car has all the same interior features and styling of other Focus models. It gets around 100 miles of driving range, and with its 6.6 kilowatt on-board charger it has a faster recharge time than other electric cars.

The certification program is meant to verify the dealerships meet Ford's guidelines for dealers selling electric vehicles. The certification requirements include: a) Installing at least two electric car charging stations, one available to the public the other in the service area. b) Participation in a Ford Go Green Dealer Onsite Facility Assessment meant to identify energy and cost saving opportunities, and undergo energy saving upgrades in the dealership. c) Maintain at least one Ford Focus Electric on-site for customer demos and events. d) At least 80% of the staff must "meet specific electric vehicle training certification requirements that cover topics including advanced knowledge of electrification." e) Point-of-sale display materials for the Ford Focus Electric.

“The amount of hard work and resources dealers put into becoming certified really is a testament to how excited they are, how excited customers are and how excited we are about electric vehicles, starting with Focus Electric,” said David Gutman, Ford’s field operations manager.

By ensuring dealership staff take the highly specialized training in the field of electric vehicles, certified dealers should be better prepared to sell electric cars. This may be an attempt to avoid a problem GM has faced in selling the Chevy Volt. A Forbes article over the weekend discussed how Volt sales have varied widely from dealership-to-dealership. Some dealerships steered prospective Volt buyers to other cars, while other dealerships really dug into Volt sales, with one dealership in Michigan racking up 25 Volt sales a month. Clearly selling an electric car is different from selling yet another gasoline powered car, and some dealerships are more ready than others.

The energy audits and upgrades requirement fits well with some of Ford's other moves. The company's strategy for sustainability improvements appears to be more broad spectrum than just delivering an electric car. The company is taking a comprehensive look at weight reduction and other fuel efficiency measures to increase efficiency across the board and over a long period of time with a variety of vehicle electrification technologies. Energy efficiency improvements at dealerships is "sustainability improvement" looked at through the facility manager lens. It should reduce not only the environmental impact of Ford's corporate operations, but the operational expense.

So far 67 dealers have been certified in California, New York and New Jersey, the first states in the Ford Focus Electric rollout. The full list of certified dealers can be found on Ford's website at ford.com/electric/focuselectric/2012/reservations/

By the end of the summer Ford expects to launch the Ford Focus Electric in an additional 19 states, and it will be available nationwide by the end of the year.

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