Update Wednesday, November 22, 8:47 a.m.: Ford spokesperson Marty Günsberg told InsideEVs that the Illinois ruling did not influence the company's decision to reduce dealer EV requirements; it happened that the timing of the findings landed on top of the changes.
"We made changes to the voluntary Model e EV Program as we continue to adapt our overall EV strategy to the market. We also continue to listen to Dealer feedback. These changes are not a result of the Illinois outcome," Günsberg said.
He noted that Ford has made the latest changes as part of adjusting to market demand. The story has been updated to reflect the lack of causality between the Illinois legal battle and Ford's decision to cut dealer EV requirements.
Ford Motor Company has backed down on requirements imposed on its EV dealers and is again making changes to its voluntary electric vehicle certification program for dealers.
The move comes just as the automaker has lost a legal battle to Ford dealers in Illinois, where the state motor vehicle board ruled that the automaker broke the law by requiring its dealers to invest hefty sums if they want to continue selling EVs.
The company claims its decision to cut training costs by half and reduce the number of chargers that retailers are required to install at their premises is not related to the Illinois ruling.
As part of the new requirements, Ford's upper-tier "Certified Elite" dealers now have to install three Level 2 chargers instead of five, while the lower-tier "Certified" dealers are now required to install two Level 2 chargers instead of five. Furthermore, the additional Level 3 fast-charger for 2026 for Certified Elite dealers has been removed altogether.
For both tiers, Ford also pushed back the deadline to have the chargers in place by six months to June 30, 2024 because of charger supply chain and infrastructure delays. In addition, Ford said it is cutting the cost of dealer training by up to $20,000—or about half—for the 2024 calendar year.
In a statement to The Detroit News and Automotive News, Ford spokesperson Marty Günsberg said the changes come "as we continue to adapt our overall EV strategy to the market and listen to dealer feedback."
Charging requirements was a key point of contention in the Illinois case. Twenty-six dealers argued Ford's program violated state franchise laws, adding that the more expensive Level 3 chargers were unnecessary.
The Blue Oval said it would appeal the decision. "Ford stands by its voluntary Model e EV program," the company said in a statement. "It is designed to make sure that Ford and its dealers provide Illinois Ford EV customers with a segment-leading experience throughout their purchase, service and ownership journey.”
The Illinois dispute is just one of several battles Ford is carrying out nationwide over its EV program. The program has been opposed by most state dealer associations since it was unveiled in September 2022. Initially, about 60 percent of Ford and Lincoln dealers opted in—approximately 1,920 of the company's nearly 3,000 U.S. dealers.
In January, Ford made some concessions to dealers including scaling back the amount of charging a dealer would be required to offer public charging every day and removing a cap that limited lower-tier dealers to selling a maximum of 25 EVs per year.
After the changes, Ford gave dealers the option to drop out of the program or change tiers. The automaker's total enrollment fell 1.5 percent to 1,891 of its dealers.
Since then, EV enrollment has fallen to approximately 1,550 dealers, or about 53% of the total network, Ford said on November 20 according to Automotive News. Still, due to the size of Ford's network, the company claims that 86% of the population lives within 20 miles of a Ford dealership capable of selling and servicing a Ford EV.