Ford Retail – Culture Change and Service Improvement

Ford Retail is the largest Ford dealership in the world, with 60 sites, 3,000 employees and more than £1 billion in sales, selling over 90,000 vehicles a year.


Five years ago, following a period of acquisition, the company’s culture was fragmented and functionally driven. Management was very directive and was completely unsuited to the business priorities of improving customer service and driving cost improvements in the face of rapidly declining margins in the industry. The New HR Director put forward a strategy focused on culture to join up the company and drive commercial synergies.


A couple of years ago, the group’s board members went off site for two days to reflect on their personal leadership, the values they wanted to create and the behaviours that were acceptable. Twenty-five top managers in key roles below then took these and refined them into 30 leadership behaviours, which were then introduced to all 300 Ford Retail managers in a two-day personal leadership programme. A series of large group action-learning conferences were run with the senior management group to sustain momentum and a ‘leader as coach’ programme, with skills workshops and follow-up webinars, was run over a year with the wider population to embed the new management style.


Not so long ago Ford dealerships such as Dagenham Motors, occupied the pushy end of a pushy market. Today, Ford Retail franchises around the country are winning plaudits – 14 of the top 50 dealerships in the latest Motor Codes awards were Ford Retail. Staff engagement has improved . “I am proud to work for Ford Retail” rose from 83% to 95%. “I get sufficient training to do my job well” has gone from 65% to 83% per cent. “I feel that my contribution is appreciated” from 64% to 79%. The business improvement programme has restored profitability in an economic climate in which margins are down to 1 per cent. Change has become a way of life.

As one senior manager put it, “This was the first time we started to see a blueprint, a vision. Everybody made allowances for the fact that we were all trying to change. It stopped being ‘a bit weird’ and became acceptable.”

"Leadership development is now integral to our business strategy - this stuff really works!"

John Roberts,

HR Director Ford Retail