Tom Wenzel, manager of North American Fleet Service at Ford's Customer Service Division, knows exactly what is important to his customers. "Our goal is to maximize uptime for our business customers," he told Business Fleet, "because we understand that the vehicles they have in operation are the tools of their trade. If the vehicles are not up and running, they don't have their tools; therefore it's costing them money." Ford Motor Co.'s Business Preferred Network is directing more resources than ever before toward that goal, according to Wenzel. Extended Hours; Priority Service BPN dealers must make the commitment to serve the small fleet business. Ford has minimum requirements that dealers must meet to qualify as members of the Business Preferred Network. "There are some fairly rigid requirements they have to live by," Wenzel said. "They must stay open extended hours including Saturdays. They've got to give priority service to our commercial customers when they come in for service. And they've got to offer various products like QFC [Quality Fleet Care] and the BusinessCare MasterCard." Fleet customers will have one point of contact at the dealership -- the commercial account manager. This person will be knowledgeable about commercial products, servicing, finance and leasing, according to Wenzel. Commercial account managers will be available to help small fleet buyers through every step of the process, including the often difficult process of correctly spec'ing vehicles. Two Categories of BPN Dealerships BPN dealerships fall into two categories, according to Wenzel: those that do both sales and service, and those that don't specialize in fleet sales, but are geared to do fleet service, known as service centers. "If they are sales and service then they have to do everything from a service standpoint that a service center does," Wenzel said. "They can't do sales only; everybody has to provide the level of service that we require." According to Wenzel, of the 1,500 dealers Ford expects to sign up for the BPN program by the end of this year, about half will be sales and service, and half will be service only. Training Required for BPN Dealers Commercial account managers at BPN dealers are required to take three days of off-site training, with the service advisors attending for two days, according to Wenzel. "Then we do the installation back at the dealership to make sure they do all the things we've asked them to do," Wenzel said. "And there will be an audit process to follow up and make sure they are following the correct processes; this is an ongoing thing. This is not just sign up once and you're on forever." This level of follow-through and commitment is to ensure BPN dealerships are giving small fleets what they need, according to Wenzel. "We want to make sure that they continue to offer the level of service that we've committed to our customers," he said. "If we determine they aren't meeting the program requirements and they don't want to change, we will remove them from the program." Accessibility is Key To find the nearest BPN dealer, all fleet owners have to do is visit the BPN Web site, Once you're there, you can learn not only the location of nearby BPN dealers, but also their capabilities. "For example, we can highlight if they work on diesels, if they can work on alternate fuel vehicles, and their hours of operation," Wenzel said. "For anybody who is looking for a place to have their repair work done, these dealers will meet those needs." BusinessCare Card Relaunched The recently relaunched no-fee BusinessCare MasterCard, developed in partnership with Wells Fargo, offers the convenience and the detailed expense reporting that a small fleet needs, according to Wenzel. "This is a business card they can customize to meet all their business operating needs," he told Business Fleet. "Customers can make it a fuel-only card, fuel and maintenance, travel and entertainment -- even an office purchasing card. It can be assigned to an individual or to a vehicle, with pre-established spending controls. "That's a major benefit to the smaller fleet customer, because it really becomes their business card, with the opportunity to have multiple types of cards with the business," Wenzel said. "It's an excellent tool which helps them run their fleet more efficiently." Commercial Truck Center "Another issue we are putting more focus on is the parts availability area," Wenzel said. "Ford's new commercial truck center provides 24-hour, seven-day-a-week parts availability through our partnership with Federal Express in Memphis. "For anyone with a vehicle that goes down and needs parts, our dealers now have the ability to contact this center 24 hours a day and get parts for Class 2C thruogh Class 7 trucks. Any mechanical part that would down these vehicles is stocked at our center." Commitment of Resources "We are putting incremental resources toward the group of dealers who have the srongest interest in serving our commercial customers -- our BPN dealers," Wenzel said emphatically. According to Wenzel, Ford recently added 17 field service representatives to help get dealers enrolled and certified for the Business Preferred Network. Once the dealers are signed up and certified, the field reps help them work on their processes to continuously improve the level of service provided to commercial customers. "We are supporting the program more than just by giving a lot of lip service," Wenzel said. "We are actually putting resources behind the program, both from the sales and from a service standpoint." For More Information To learn more about Ford's Business Preferred Network and to find the BPN dealer nearest you, visit or call toll-free 1-888-BPN-1723 (1-888-276-1723). For more information on the BusinessCare MasterCard, call toll-free 1-800-524-8189 or visit