Ford press conference, 2011 Detroit Auto Show

Ford press conference, 2011 Detroit Auto Show

Ford's U.S. lineup is about to change in a very significant way. And as the automaker emphasized in its Detroit Auto Show press conference, with several high-volume small car models expected to arrive this year and next, you'll soon see plenty of smaller and greener alternatives in Ford's lineup.

But to dealerships that have long subsisted on heavy sales of pickups and SUVs, it might take a change in sales attitude—and some new training.

A cadence to focus on one at a time

Ford press conference, 2011 Detroit Auto Show

Ford press conference, 2011 Detroit Auto Show

"Really, we have a nice cadence of rollout this year," said Jim Farley, Ford's vice president for global marketing, sales and service. There's plenty of time, Farley says, to fine-tune the message, and get dealerships ready for these new products.

First, later this month Ford will launch the Focus sedan and 5-door hatchback; deliveries of the 2012 Focus Electric will begin by end-of-year, with high volume ramping up next year; and C-Max models will join the lineup early next year, along with the high-performance Ford Focus ST.

The Fiesta was treated as the beginning of a Ford car line rejuvenation, said Farley, and the automaker treated the model's launch this past year as a test case for the many other small cars and electrified vehicles to follow.

Marketing strategies gleaned from Fiesta

According to Farley, a number of Focus marketing strategies will be following lessons learned with the Fiesta—and involvement in the Focus Rally: America and the Amazing Race.

There are a host of common-sense EV issues that dealerships (and customers) still need to be informed about, he added, such as that the electrical load of EVs when they're being charged can be about the same as that of the rest of the appliances in a house together.

EVs to become a core business?

While Ford is delegating Best Buy for charger installation, service, and support for its 2012 Focus Electric, Farley clarified that's a responsibility that will definitely be moved back in-house to dealerships in the long run. In the meantime, he said, Ford is working with dealerships on fundamental changes to the delivery and service for EVs.

While EVs might create a buzz at the dealership, it could be some time before they're profitable for the company, however. On the Ford stand, executive chairman Bill Ford commented that there's no specific time frame for Ford to become profitable on its EVs and electrified vehicles, like the Focus Electric. "But ultimately it's a business we need to make money with," he asserted.