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Old 09-08-2003, 08:27   #1 (permalink)
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U.S.A.:Ford Credit to shutter 7% of branch offices

By Mary Connelly
Automotive News / September 08, 2003

DETROIT -- Within six months, Ford Motor Credit Co. will close about 7 percent of its 165 branch offices servicing dealers.

"It's right-sizing our business," says A. J. Wagner, executive vice president of Ford Credit North America. "We're going to close about a dozen branches. Some of the locations got to be so small in terms of the volume going through them you couldn't run a business effectively."

Business at Ford brand, Lincoln and Mercury dealerships is dropping off after reaching historic highs because of 0 percent financing deals in 2001, Wagner says. And Ford Credit, a subsidiary of Ford Motor Co., is opting out of some loans as it focuses on its core business.

For example, the company no longer finances contracts on vehicles seven years and older, Wagner says. Wagner would not say where the company is closing branches, pending employee notification. Most of the workers will be eligible to transfer to neighboring branches, he says.

Ford Credit financed or leased 52 percent of the retail vehicle transactions at Ford brand, Lincoln and Mercury dealerships in 2002, Wagner says. Its share peaked at 67 percent in 2001, he says.

"Our share has gone from 67 percent to the upper 40s today," he says, noting that historically Ford Credit has handled 35 percent to 40 percent of the retail business at Ford brand, Lincoln and Mercury stores.

Ford Credit's branches approve loan applications and handle dealership inventory financing and inventory audits. Regional service centers oversee account collection. There are about 10 to 14 branch offices in each of Ford Credit's 14 U.S. regions.
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