Ford Dealer Magazine Article
Article written by Richard Stewart for Ford Division's
"Dealer World" dealership magazine
Dealers Offered Latest Hardware, Software
in Even Trade for Old Equipment
Would you trade your computer system for a new one
that's faster and more powerful, running integrated
software designed especially for your application—all
at no charge? That's just the offer Ford Dealer Computer
Services (FDCS) is making to dealers now using Texas
Instruments UNIX-based systems. It's a trade many
dealers are finding hard to refuse. About 900 have signed
up for the FDCS system.
FDCS, Ford's preferred computer system vendor, is
offering its latest software and mainframe computer, the
FDCS 7000MP, at no cost to dealers who want to replace
their TI 5000 and 6000 systems. Introduced in February
1993, the FDCS hardware features an IBM 9370
processor and is compatible with many of the printers
and terminals from the TI system it replaces.
The FDCS 7000MP can accommodate a maximum
of 100 terminals and provides up to 3000 megabytes of
storage. Larger systems, the FDCS 8000 and 9000
series, can handle an almost unlimited number of devices,
according to Bob Scott, FDCS merchandising manager.
Each of the new systems runs the software specifically
developed for Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers, who
pay a monthly software user fee, based on the number
of applications purchased and a hardware maintenance
The new software is database-oriented, which differs
from the previous file-based software. It provides the
ability to share information among all terminals
connected to the system from the time data is entered.
That eliminates the need for multiple entry of data for
different departments and spells an end to the time-
consuming, end-of-day data processing and sorting of
"With the new system," explains Scott, "a customer
can come out of the showroom after buying a car,
walk into the service department, and the information
that the service advisor needs to schedule maintenance
will already be in the computer and accessible. That's
something dealers really want—total sharing of
information, without waiting."
Software applications for a broad range of dealership
operations are offered with the FDCS 7000MP, and
dealers can pick and choose the ones they want.
Programs aim to simplify administrative tasks while
helping to increase sales and maximize profits.
Schaefer Lincoln-Mercury in Dover, Delaware
converted to the FDCS system last September, and
dealer Bill Schaefer is still applauding it. "It think it's
possibly the best software package for a dealership
that money can buy, The system is remarkable in the
way it allows each department to interact with each
other on a real-time basis," he says. "Now we know
exactly how much money we have in every vehicle at
any given time. That can be critical in selling cars."
Bobby Bohn, president of Bohn Ford, New
Orleans, likes the improved efficiency the new system
provides. Before converting to a FDCS 7000MP in
October, the dealership had been using a stand-alone
computer for the finance office. "Now that we have
all the departments integrated into one system, it's
made the paperwork flow a lot faster," he reports.
"It's eliminated handling pieces of paper two and
Bohn likes the variety of management reports the
new software generates, too. "We can get productivity
reports on every employee, which helps us operate
more efficiently," he says. "And that helps us save
He also likes the FDCS prospecting program,
which provides detailed worksheets to help sales-
people gather information on prospects for follow-up.
The software generates "hot sheets" listing current
prospects, referrals, and customers flagged for
recontact. A tie-in with the telephone system tracks
follow-up calls automatically.
Data gathered from new-car prospects can also
be used with used-car buyers. The system can
search for information on prospective trade-ins
whenever a used-car buyer is looking for a particular
vehicle. If a match is found and a buyer is already
waiting in the wings, a higher amount can often be
offered to the new-car prospect for the trade-in—
which can result in two sales.
A service technician efficiency program puts
computer terminals in the service bays. With this
application, technicians can order parts without
walking to the parts counter (and waiting), call up
a vehicle's service history without asking a service
advisor, and get job assignments without seeing
In the parts department, another application
handles special-order parts efficiently. A record
of each order is maintained, along with information
on buyer, seller, aging, and order status. A customer
notification card is printed when the part comes in.
"We're still learning to use all the new applications,"
says John Keith, parts and service director of W.O.
Bankston Lincoln-Mercury in Dallas, number one
in service volume among all Ford and Lincoln-
Mercury dealers in the U.S. The dealership converted
to the FDCS system in October, but not before
closely evaluating competitive systems.
Keith was no newcomer to computers, having
worked with automated dealership systems since
1964. "We were especially impressed by the FDCS
software," he recalls. "Applications they already
had in place were still in the development stages
in the other systems we looked at."
One feature that's proven to be a big time-saver
in the service department, according to Keith, is
the automatic generation of an OASIS report for
every repair order. "That gives us the information
we need on recalls, warranties and so forth for
every customer, and it expedites the write-up," he
explains. "That is a major, major benefit. If you've
never had it, you don't realize what an advantage
A split-screen feature, allowing the user to
access two applications from one terminal at the
same time, is drawing raves of approval throughout
the dealership, he notes. "It allows us to get at
information quickly without having to quit the
program we're working in. Everyone who's used it
wonders how we ever got along without it."
Keith was expecting problems the day the
system was converted, but after half an hour of
initial confusion, everything seemed to fall into
place. Typically, no downtime is involved during
the conversion, which is performed by FDCS
installation teams trained to make the switch as
painless as possible. The data transfer is done
over the weekend, and the new system is up on
"We were prepared to accept whatever
consequences the conversion might bring,"
Keith notes, "but to our surprise, everything
worked fine. We wrote 336 repair orders that
Monday." He credits the FDCS team for the
smooth transition and thorough training of
computer users before the crunch.
"If you want to have a painless conversion,
make sure your people do their homework,"
says Keith. "The system is only going to work
as well as the people are able to operate it.
You need trained, proficient people, who have
a good, can-do attitude." Programmed learning
modules built into the software help teach and
grade the progress of each operator. Classroom
training is available at FDCS training centers
in Detroit and Houston and on a rotating
schedule throughout the U.S.
Calling the FDCS system a tremendous
opportunity for improved efficiency and
increased profits, Keith advises anyone who
has not yet considered it to take a look. "We
feel that this system is going to enhance our
ability to sell more parts and labor in the
service department," he says. "It has profit
opportunities at every turn."