Degree: CPA with KPMG Peat Marwick; bachelors in accounting from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1979.
Car: Looking to buy a dark blue Jaguar
Stress reliever: I get out and a take a nice walk, spend time with my kids and exercise.
In March, Devon Cohen signed on to become CEO of Ford Motors dealer-led online company, FordDirect.com. The division makes it possible for consumers to buy Ford cars and trucks online through its dealer network. Before joining FordDirect, Cohen was group vice president of automotive at TradeOut — a business-to-business sister company of eBay — where he was responsible for the creation of an automotive business that sold more than $3.6 million in its first three months of operation. Cohen spoke with Senior Writer Laura Lorek.
Why did you want to head FordDirect?
I have entrepreneurship in my blood. Having worked in several successful situations in the past, you begin to quickly recognize the key elements of success. And this is it. FordDirect is the kind of opportunity that comes only rarely in a persons career.
Ford is active on a number of Internet fronts, so how does FordDirect differ from the other ventures?
The national Ford Dealer Council and Ford Motor formed FordDirect last August. The dealers own 80 percent, and Ford owns 20 percent.
FordDirect is in nine states now, including California, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. What are your plans for the future?
We plan on going nationwide as quickly as we can. We will go state by state and sit down and talk to regulators and licensing agents about why FordDirect makes sense.
How long does it take to convince a state to allow FordDirect to operate?
It depends. We have to overcome franchise and advertising laws state by state. Its been very successful so far. The first few states, like California and Texas, have been the toughest.
What are your goals at FordDirect?
First goal is to enhance sales through the Internet for dealerships. The second goal is to enhance dealerships net profit through leveraging revenue enhancement ideas — “What else can dealers do for consumers?” — and through the economies of scale of 4,000 dealers, to lower the cost to run a dealership, including everything from buying supplies to software. Our last goal is to be a profitable, self-sustaining model.
How do you make your money?
Through collecting leads and charging dealers for those leads. Ultimately through providing cost savings and revenue enhancement opportunities for dealerships.
What are the greatest challenges you face?
This is a brand-new concept for dealerships and manufacturers. Were going to try things, and some of the things will work and some will not. We need to fail fast and move forward.