“South Florida is a trend-setting market for autos,” said Patrick O’Neill, who took over earlier this year as Ford Motor Company’s Miami regional manager for sales and service, a geographical area that includes everything south of Vero Beach.
“It’s a fast-moving and very important market for Ford,” and for other automakers as well, he said. “Luxury vehicles are very big here, and power and speed are very important.”
But customers also want all sorts of automobiles — SUVs, small cars, family sedans, hybrids, trucks, “and we have a full line of vehicles to appeal to everyone,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill, a graduate of Northwood University in Saginaw, Michigan, began working with Ford 26 years ago. He came to South Florida from Bangkok, where he was Ford’s director of customer service for Malaysia, Asia Pacific and emerging markets. He has worked in different divisions of Ford’s domestic and international operations and has experience in marketing, sales and service, M&A, divestures, start-ups and dealership operations.
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“It’s hot here and in Bangkok, but it’s a lot hotter there,” O’Neill said.
“The Mustang is a big seller in South Florida, with sales up 92 percent year-over-year,” he said.
In Miami, cars sales represent the greatest volume, while along the Gulf Coast, trucks are extremely popular.
“Overall, Ford’s vehicle sales in South Florida were up 10 percent year-over-year,” O’Neill said. “We have some of the highest volumes in the country here.”
Ford offers models with retail prices (MSRPs) ranging from about $13,900 for a Ford Fiesta to $44,000, the starting price for the Ford Expedition. To keep up with customers’ expectations, Ford launched 24 different vehicles globally last year.
Miami has been a market for Fords for more than a century. The first Fords were likely sold in Miami around 1908, and the first dealership in Miami — the Miami Motor Sales Co. — was started around 1931, O’Neill said.
The oldest Ford dealership in Florida still in operation is Sam Galloway Ford Lincoln in Fort Myers, founded in 1927.
Florida is a major market for Ford. The state represents 4 percent of Ford’s total national sales, and “South Florida is a big deal for the company,” O’Neill said. Last year, Ford logged sales in the United State of nearly 2.5 million wholesale vehicles (factory to dealerships).
The goal of the Miami regional office is to make sure that Ford supplies customers with the highest quality products and service. There are 28 Ford dealerships and 10 Lincoln dealerships in the Miami region headed by O’Neill. He is responsible for the Ford dealerships, while the Lincoln stores are part of a separate sales and service network managed by Lincoln.
The job of the Miami regional office, which actually is based in Coconut Creek, is to work with the 28 Ford independently owned dealerships in the area, helping to promote sales and marketing, working on advertising programs, solving logistics problems, meeting with dealers to discuss their problems and, essentially, acting as an intermediary between Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, and the all-important dealers, who get Ford products to customers and provide maintenance service, parts and repairs.
Ford has 122 dealerships throughout Florida. Another regional sales and marketing office in Orlando takes care of dealerships north of Vero Beach, and a third operation works with smaller and remote rural dealers.
Ford also has other operations throughout the state, including a parts distribution center, a customer call center and a Ford Motor Credit Co. office.
While the Miami regional office has about 25 employees, Ford statewide has 570.
O’Neill pointed out that the economic impact of Ford is substantial: The 28 Ford dealerships in the Miami region alone have about 3,000 employees and across the state, there are 9,000.
Charities and community work are an important part of what Ford dealers and their workers do, he added, and employees at Ford dealerships not only make cash donations but also volunteer their time to local community efforts.
For example, Ford and its dealers actively support local chapters of Autism Speaks, Susan G. Komen, the organization fighting breast cancer, and Warriors in Pink, Ford’s own breast cancer charity.
“It’s not just about revenues,” O’Neill said. “Our dealers create jobs, and they and their employees pay taxes, put money into stores and the economy and make important contributions to charities and to the communities where they work.”
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Ford Motor Company
Business: One of the world’s largest manufacturers of automobiles and trucks, Ford has operations and production facilities worldwide. Last year, Ford sold more than 6.3 million vehicles at wholesale throughout the world. The company’s main subsidiaries are the Lincoln Motor Co., which makes luxury vehicles, and Ford Motor Credit Co. In South Florida, the Miami regional office has responsibility for working with 28 Ford dealerships on sales and service, advertising and other business areas.
Founded: Ford Motor Co. was set up in 1903.
Ford Miami: The Miami regional sales and service office was opened in 2007 and covers everything in the state south of Vero Beach.
Ford president and CEO: Mark Fields.
South Florida management: Patrick O’Neill, Miami regional manager, sales and service.
Corporate headquarters: Dearborn, Michigan.
Miami regional headquarters: Coconut Creek.
Employees: 25 in the Miami regional headquarters, 570 in Florida and about 187,000 worldwide. There are also about 3,000 employees at the independently owned Ford dealerships in the Miami region and 9,000 statewide.
Ownership: Traded on the NYSE (Symbol F).
Revenues: $135.8 billion in 2014.