The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Ford Offers Vehicle Special Order Service for Fleets

December 2006, by Chad Simon

Is your fleet in the market for custom options normally not listed as standard equipment, including backup alarms, special paint, vehicle cutaways, speed limiters, white powder-coated wheels, cab roof marker lamps, fender and reardoor badging delete, passenger-side airbag deactivation, or a master key system to unlock the entire fleet? Ford’s Vehicle Special Order (VSO) service just may be able to meet your specific fleet needs.

Custom Equipment & Paint Options
Producing an average annual volume of 26,000 orders, Ford’s VSO program is designed to develop special equipment and paint options, not available in a dealership’s regular production order guide, to meet specific fleet customer requirements.

“With Frito-Lay, for example, we’re working on a powertrain control module, which ensures drivers don’t exceed 65 mph,” said Lee Scafidi, manager, VSO, Ford North American Fleet, Lease & Remarketing Operations, based in Dearborn, Mich. “This feature helps limit wear-and-tear and extends the vehicle’s longevity, thereby reducing cost of ownership. It was initially established for our rental clients.”

Scafidi heads Ford’s VSO team of seven employees, two of whom are colocated in Ft. Wayne, Ind. “After the Blue Diamond joint venture launched about four years ago, we thought it would be advantageous to have a few employees in Ft. Wayne, working onsite with International’s engineering group and handling option development for the F-650 / F-750 and Low Cab Forward,” said Scafidi.

In another instance, a major truck rental fleet requested that VSO relocate odometer fuses from truck dashboards because customers were tampering with the odometer and adjusting their mileage, costing the company millions of dollars per year.

VSO also offers weight distribution de-ratings for truck fleets that request a lower gross vehicle weight to qualify for a lower truck classification. “It’s a complicated process that sometimes calls for going from one class to another and adjusting the 17- position VIN, but we always try to accommodate the customer with VSO options,” said Scafidi.

VSO does not offer special paint for every vehicle line. E-Series makes up about 75 percent of its orders. According to Scafidi, VSO’s paint chip chart consists of 34 colors not offered via regular production options. Special formulation colors are also available with a minimum quantity mandate.

Improving Turnaround Time
VSO ordering procedures and guidelines may be found under the “Ordering Center” tab on the Web site, as well as a link to access the VSO Inquiry System, which allows fleets and dealers to submit online inquiries requesting optional equipment not offered via regular fleet production.

“In most cases, the desired equipment is a condition of sale for big fleet accounts, such as Frito-Lay, U-Haul, VPSI, Penske, and FedEx. If in fact we don’t honor this request, it gives them a reason to look at our competitors,” said Scafidi.

Over the past five years, Inquiry turnaround time has been cut from 30-45 days to 48 hours. Order Inquiries provide fleet customers with the following information:

  • Feasibility: Whether the request is viable for both Ford and the account.
  • Timing: Length of time for engineering to develop the option.
  • Pricing: Develop a price for the option based on cost information from engineering and suppliers.
  • Estimated Production Date.

    Formerly known as DSO (Dealer Special Order), Scafidi changed the program’s name to VSO because Ford wanted to align itself with its European partners who already referred to the program as VSO and because special orders are offered not only to dealers, but also to leasing companies. Current average vehicle production times for orders containing previously developed VSO options are quoted at approximately 60-90 days.

    Accommodating Requests
    Although largely geared toward truck fleets, VSO also provides some option content for police vehicles. According to Scafidi, Crown Victoria Police Interceptors used to be VSO’s largest-volume vehicle line, before their options were converted to regular production. Every option developed by VSO is reviewed annually with the brand team to determine whether changing it to a standard feature demonstrates proper business acumen.

    “Most of our options are based on regular production options. It may be a variation of a particular option already offered in a higher-series model; for example, a commercial customer may want a particular option for an XL work truck that’s only offered on an XLT. In this case, the customer would come to us and see if we could de-content the option from XLT and bring it down to an XL. Depending on volume and price, we attempt to accommodate the customer’s request,” said Scafidi.

    For the 2008-MY, Ford will change its ordering system from “CONCEPS” to what is currently called “single-order edit,” in which options will be referred to by feature codes instead of regular ordering codes.

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