Ford is losing dealers' trust after a rocky year for the EV transition

Written by:
Nora Naughton
November 7, 2023

It's been a tough year for Ford dealers, and it's becoming clear some are losing patience.

Ford came in dead last in a recent survey on dealers' level of trust in their franchises, with 46% of Ford dealers surveyed by Kerrigan Advisors saying they had "no trust" in their franchise. That lack of trust aligns with the expectation of a decline in future profitability at Ford stores reflected in another portion of the 2023 Kerrigan Dealer Survey.

This breakdown in trust and pessimism about the future shouldn't come as too much of a surprise after the year Ford dealers have had.

Store owners started 2023 balancing with new investment requirements for selling electric cars against steep price cuts that hit the segment after Tesla's Elon Musk started reducing his prices. Over the summer, some Ford dealers told Insider they were starting to turn away electric Mustang Mach-E allocations, even after investing so heavily to qualify to sell those cars.


More recently, another Ford dealer told Insider he was struggling to fill orders for the electric F-150 Lightning as customers change their plans in a more unforgiving economic environment.

"By the time it was their turn to order interest rates had moved quite substantially. The price on the vehicle had moved quite substantially and not as many people ultimately ordered the Lightning," said Cameron Johnson, CEO of Magic City Auto Group, a Virginia dealership group selling mostly domestic brands.

Add on top of that the fact that dealers across the country have been ringing the alarm bell on a shift in electric car demand, and it starts to become clear why dealers for one of the leaders of the EV transition are starting to get antsy.

Ford, for its part, says it's listening to dealers and "making adjustments" based on their feedback.

"Working with our dealers, we have made recent beneficial changes to address dealer feedback and improve franchise value," a Ford spokesperson told Insider in a statement.

Ford is also among several companies that have pulled back or revised their electric car plans in recent months in response to the changing customer response to the segment.

Among the least trusted brands, Nissan takes second place while Ford's luxury brand Lincoln takes third.

Fewer EVs, more trust

Companies with less ambitious electric car plans appear to fare better among their dealers in the survey.

Topping the list of most-trusted franchises is Toyota, which has long supported a more measured electric vehicle transition and relied heavily on a hybrid lineup to meet more stringent emissions standards.

This puts Toyota ahead of the competition as the pool of green car shoppers shifts to a more price-conscious and practical buyer who is more likely to shell out extra cash for a hybrid that fits their lifestyle than an EV that comes with more compromises.

Toyota's luxury brand, Lexus, comes in second, while Subaru lands in third place.

Martin French, managing director at automotive consultancy Berylls, told Insider recently that hybrids are likely to be the bridge the auto industry needs to reach full electrification.

"I still believe full EVs are our future, but maybe just not as quickly as everyone is pushing them," French said.

Are you a dealer with opinions on the industry's transition to electric vehicles? Reach out to this reporter at

About Kerrigan Advisors

Kerrigan Advisors is the premier sell-side advisor and thought partner to auto dealers nationwide. The firm advises the industry's leading dealership groups, enhancing value through the lifecycle of growing, operating and, when the time is right, selling their businesses. Kerrigan Advisors has represented some of auto retail's largest transactions and advised more of the largest dealership groups in the US than any other buy/sell firm in the industry. Led by a team of veteran industry experts with backgrounds in investment banking, private equity, accounting, finance and real estate, the firm does not take listings, rather they develop a customized approach for each client to achieve their personal and financial goals. In addition to Kerrigan Advisors' sell-side advisory and capital raising services, the firm also provides a suite of consulting services including growth strategy, market valuation assessments, capital allocation, transactional due diligence, open point proposals, operational improvement and real estate due diligence.

Kerrigan Advisors monitors conditions in the buy/sell market and publishes an in-depth analysis each quarter in The Blue Sky Report®, which includes Kerrigan Advisors' signature blue sky charts, multiples, and analysis for each franchise in the luxury and non-luxury segments.—To download a preview of the report, click here.—The firm also releases monthly The Kerrigan Index™ composed of the seven publicly traded auto retail companies with operations focused on the US market. The Kerrigan Auto Retail Index is designed to track dealership valuation trends, while also providing key insights into factors influencing auto retail.—To access The Kerrigan Index™, click here.—To read the—2023 Kerrigan OEM Survey, click here.—Kerrigan Advisors also is the co-author of NADA's Guide to Buying and Selling a Dealership.

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