Ford Motor Co. within a month will test a statewide "court of last resort" for customers unhappy with their cars of dealer's service.
A five-member customer complaint panel, called the Consumer Appeals Board, will be tried in North Carolina for a period lasting up to two years, Bennett Bidwell, vice president of Ford's sales group, said here yesterday. If successful the program will go nationwide, he said.
Ford said the program is the first of its kind by an automobile manufacturer. The National Auto Dealers Association has sponsored a similar program for about four years.
Unlike the NADA program, any decision by the five-person Ford board in North Carolina will be binding on both company and the dealer, Bidwell said.
The intention is to "enhance the customer's perception of ourselves and our dealers," he said.
The board will be made up of two dealers, a state official, a vocational educator and a "customer advocate." A Ford executive said, "We'd like to ask Ralph Nader, but we couldn't afford his $10,000 per diem. That's what he gets, doesn't he?"
The auto maker hopes to announce the five members of the Consumer Appeals Board at a press conference in Raleigh on Sept. 22, according to Ford spokesman George Trainor.
To certain degree, the idea parallels the 20-year-old Public Review Board of the United Auto Workers.
That is a seven-member group appointed by the president of the UAW, approved by both the union's executive board and the membership as the triennial convention.