No need to step foot in a dealership.
Not only can consumers now buy new vehicles entirely online, in some cases they can also reserve new vehicles before production even gets underway. This online pre-order method was begun by Tesla several years ago and mainstream automakers have adapted it too. Ford, perhaps, has been the most successful to date. Despite the seemingly endless problems the pandemic created last year, the Blue Oval managed to have three big launches: the Ford F-150, Mustang Mach-E, and the Bronco Sport. The Bronco SUV's launch has been delayed until next summer.
However, Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's vice president of product development, told Automotive News some delivery delays are "very typical" for any new vehicle launch but the company's new online reservation system created added transparency.
"Because we did online reservations, and we took them very early in the process, our ability to really forecast a delivery date wasn't very precise," he explained. "We've had to go back to those customers to adjust the timing based on how things are going. Overall we've been very happy with the launches so far."
Instead of anxious customers being left in the dark, they're at least being kept up to date with what's happening. This new method not only keeps customers satisfied but also enables Ford to create additional time to ensure quality. The Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator launch debacles last year were a harsh lesson in what not to do. Customers and dealers alike were angry by the build quality issues plaguing those SUVs, a mistake Ford simply couldn't afford to make again, especially with its bread and butter F-150.
Digitizing the ordering and reservation process has another benefit as well: real-time vehicle data. "We have connected-vehicle data now, so we're able to see in real time some of the initial-quality results," he said. "So far the run rate at zero months in service, we're seeing about 45 percent lower quality claims this year than the same period last year. It's another proof point the process is working."
Also noteworthy is that Thai-Tang says Ford has not seen any major drop in deposits following vehicle delays, again thanks to the online ordering system. Customers are evidently responding well to Ford's greater transparency.