13 March 2023
On 1 March 2023, all Dutch Ford dealer agreements were converted into Ford agency agreements. This has been the biggest possible change in the area of automotive distribution in the past 50 years.
Whereas in the past decades new vehicles were usually sold through networks of independent dealers, more and more car manufacturers are considering exchanging the dealer sales model for an agency model, in which they themselves will be the legal seller of new vehicles to customers.
In the new model, the former dealers will refer orders in exchange for which they receive a commission. They no longer act as sellers. This is a complete game changer, as the car manufacturers that decide to make this change will have to perform many duties themselves that in the past were done by the dealers. Moreover, they are required to bear all the major contract-specific risks and take care of market-specific investments. Only then can they determine the final price of the vehicle, as well as to whom and in what area the cars are sold. This is meant to ensure that the prices of new cars will be the same everywhere, irrespective of whether they are purchased online or offline, which will give the online sale of new vehicles a serious boost. This will also give manufacturers direct access to customers, which is considered essential in the forthcoming era of connected vehicles and driverless vehicles.
Ford is leading the way – the Netherlands is the first country in the world for Ford to introduce the agency model. The model is intended to be rolled out all over Europe in the years to come. Houthoff, which for years has been Ford's regular adviser, assisted Ford in this process from the very beginning, in close cooperation with an extensive team of Ford's European in-house lawyers. The project, which is extraordinarily complex, particularly in terms of ensuring a sound transition to the new model, will give rise to experience that will serve as a basis for the rest of Europe. Houthoff also assisted in the negotiations with a team of lawyers for the Ford dealers.
The Houthoff team was led by Walter van Overbeek, head of Houthoff’s Automotive practice group, and included Joris Verboon, Nine Vader, Gijs Hamelijnck, Juan Vervuurt, Jurre Reus, Manon van Bijlevelt, Nicole Bilderbeek and Jeroen Vossenberg.