Ford’s Largest MegaDealer Joins the Campaign to Break America’s Oil Addiction!

posted by Rainforest Action Network

Please join us in celebrating a milestone for the Jumpstart Ford campaign.

Last week, AutoNation became the first major car dealer to join Plug-In Partners, calling on automakers to manufacture plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and make them available to American customers. PHEVs are hybrid vehicles that dramatically reduce our dependence on oil by plugging into the grid to recharge. PHEVs achieve up to 100 mpg and offer you, the driver, a real-world solution to high gas costs, poor air quality, climate change and over-reliance on oil. AutoNation is linking to Plug-In Partners’ website where customers can place “soft orders” for PHEVs.

So, let me give you the inside story on why this announcement is so important.

1. The Jumpstart Ford campaign and all its supporters made this happen! For three years, the Jumpstart Ford Campaign has been enlisting the support of Ford dealers to help persuade Ford Motor Company to stop pushing gas-guzzling cars, trucks and SUVs. In the past year, a series of grassroots activities focused on Ford dealers in general and AutoNation in particular.

This incremental victory is a classic example of how corporate campaigning can leverage market forces within an industry to bring about change. First, the campaign sent a letter to AutoNation, explaining our concerns and laying out what we would like the company to do. Unfortunately, we received no response, so the local group in Fort Lauderdale/Miami went to visit a local dealership to increase the pressure a bit.

AutoNation stilll didn’t take us seriously. We really wished we didn’t have to take our actions to the next level, but climate change, oil impacts, and air pollution from Ford’s cars are just to urgent for us to wait patiently. So, on May 4, Jumpstart Ford activists, along with Emerge Miami, Democracy for America, Greenpeace Miami, and members of the Green Party, blockaded the entrance to Maroone Ford Dealership in Fort Lauderdale. Following this bold action, AutoNation agreed to sit down and negotiate with the campaign. Finally, after 4 months of ongoing conversations, AutoNation became the largest dealership group in the country to actively help break America’s oil addiction.

2. AutoNation has huge leverage within the auto industry. AutoNation is what is commonly referred to as a “megadealer.” That means they are a corporation that owns multiple dealership franchises across the United States. In fact, AutoNation is the largest megadealer in the US (with 283 dealerships), not to mention Ford’s largest dealer. So, when AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson says that PHEVs are “a vehicle that I believe the American consumer will not just consider, but buy. We look forward to selling it” it’s a message that Ford and the rest of the auto industry can’t afford to ignore.

3. This accomplishment shows that our Adopt a Dealer and megadealer strategy is working. By talking to Ford’s dealers and focusing pressure on the most powerful dealership groups, we are changing the debate within the auto industry and creating the momentum to break our oil addiction.

There is no longer any doubt that Ford Motor Company, once a symbol of American innovation, is caught in a downward spiral of oil addiction that is devastating the company’s economic future. In this context, the moment is more important than ever to invite Ford’s dealers to join the campaign and send a message back to Detroit.

While American consumers flock to more fuel efficient brands to cope with sky-rocketing gas prices, Ford is deflecting the consequences of its poor planning onto its workforce and dealer network. While new CEO Allan Mulally accepted an annual salary package of nearly $35 million, Ford announced it would lay off a third of its workers, accelerate plant closures, and significantly downsize its dealer network — particularly in the “problem areas” of California and the Eastern Seaboard. In other words, auto dealers – who are already struggling to make ends meet as the number of vehicles sold-per-dealership continues to decline – are being forced to pay for Ford’s short-sighted choices.

Please join us in inviting these dealers to be the messengers for this campaign. Ask your local dealer to send this message back to Ford: The only way Ford will regain its market share and ensure its competitive future is for it to lead the industry in fuel economy standards.