Fed up with the image of car dealers as shady Arthur Daley types, Ford has teamed up with the Leicestershire University to create the world's first degree in selling motors.
The Retail Automotive Management (Ford) BSc degree is aimed at "professionalising" a huge sector of Britain's economy whose practitioners are often judged more on their patter than their probity.
Next week, the first 22 students, plucked from more than 200 applicants from Ford forecourts around the country, will sit down and begin learning about marketing, business improvement and strategy, operations, sales and marketing.
"The idea is to move away from the Arthur Daley view of dealers and to professionalise the industry," said Jim Saker, who developed the course.
"We did a similar thing several years ago when C&A and Sainsbury's approached us to put together a degree course in retail sales management. The idea then was to put a great distance between the Only Fools and Horses kind of retailer and the professional managers that they wanted to train.
"The latest idea came from Ford. Their forecourt dealers had access to training from a number of organisations but there was no assessment and no recognisable qualification at the end of it."
All the students are Ford placements with an average age in the late- twenties; they are all regarded as people on the management fast-track. For the next three years they will attend university regularly in blocks of up to four days and then continue their jobs and study at home. The cost, with accommodation, is pounds 10,000. Admission is open only to the dealerships at the moment, but courses should be open to the public by October next year.
"The dealerships of the future will employ up to 200 people so the managers in charge will have to be very highly trained and competent," Mr Saker said. "Our students will take with them all the skills they need to run such an operation."
Ford's intention is that the students of today will be the dealership managers of tomorrow, raising standards within the trade and ridding the forecourt of sheepskin coats and trilbies forever. And if you do not like the degree, you can always take it back.Reuse content