About 83 per cent of Ford dealers in Canada have enrolled in the automaker’s controversial Model e electric vehicle certification programs, although talks between retailers and the company will continue until at least the end of March.
In response, Ford will offer dealers an annual 30-day enrolment period, “as they may see EV demand in their markets grow,” said company spokeswoman Megan Joakim.
Previously, dealers who chose to not enroll during the initial phase had to wait until 2027 to join the programs.
‘SMALL VOLUME EXCEPTION’
“Ford of Canada is committed to continuing to work closely with our dealers to deliver the Model e program and to working together to evaluate individual circumstances,” said Joakim. “For example, Model e Certified dealers with very low [EV] sales volumes will be eligible for a ‘Small Volume Exception,’ allowing them to defer the installation of their Level 3 charger, provided they are otherwise fully meeting the Certified standards.”
And, in small markets where initial EV demand is expected to be limited, Model e dealers will be allowed to have at least one public-facing DC fast charger available on the Blue Oval Charge Network, said Joakim.
The network consists of more than 20,500 stations across North America.
Discussions on the Model e program began in the spring of 2022 and dealers initially had a Dec. 16 deadline to sign up at estimated costs of $1.3 million for Certified Elite and $560,000 for Certified. Elite offered dealers full access to sales and service of Ford EVs while Certified offers “full-service capability, limited sales and a lower investment cost,” Ford said in a statement.
The fee is for charging-station installations, technician training and specialized service equipment.
THREE DEADLINE EXTENSIONS
After resistance from an undisclosed number of dealers — including retaining Toronto lawyer Shaun Laubman — the Dec. 16 deadline was pushed to Dec. 31, then Jan. 31, 2023, then Feb. 24.
Dealers opposed to making the required investments have cited slow EV sales, particularly in rural areas.
After the Feb. 24 deadline, Ford announced that 338 dealers — 83 per cent — had signed onto the program, with 226 opting for Elite and 112 choosing Certified.
“We are pleased to see that the enrolled dealers will provide a robust national network that will better serve our existing and future EV customers,” Joakim said in an email. “Ford of Canada is committed to continuing to work closely with our dealers to deliver the Model e program as we consider our dealer network to be a competitive advantage as we play to win in the BEV space.”
Citing ongoing discussions, Scott Campbell, dealer principal of Mid-Town Ford in Winnipeg, and a director of the Ford Dealer Roundtable Association, which has been involved in the negotiations, declined comment.
“As we are still in active discussions, I am not at a comfort level to discuss what transpired and how we got to the 83 per cent enrolment level until we finish the discussions,” Campbell wrote in an email. “We are meeting face-to-face at the end of March to have some more discussions.”
Steve Chipman, president of Birchwood Automotive Group, which owns four Ford dealerships including Winnipeg’s Birchwood Ford, largely deferred comments to Campbell but did strike an optimistic note.
DIFFERENT STORES, DIFFERENT PLANS
“The concern was really for the smaller dealers,” he said. “Ford had to listen and be more flexible, and in my opinion they were.”
Chipman’s three other Ford stores are in smaller centres. Before the Feb. 24 deadline, Chipman said he was waiting for final details to make a decision. After the deadline passed, he said Birchwood Ford had enrolled.
Calgary’s Marlborough Ford has also signed up for the Elite certification, managing partner Brent Walker said. He said it was always in the plans, given construction at the dealership’s new location in northeast Calgary, but “if we were not building a new store, I do not believe we would be investing that kind of money.”