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In addition to making its vehicles more efficient, Ford wants to help its dealers cut down their energy use and has teamed up with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI, more information here) to make it happen. At the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in Orlando, FL this weekend, Ford announced a voluntary dealership sustainability program.

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Ford's dealer development program works to help people become dealer principles who might not otherwise have the chance. The 64 members of the program, most of them black or Hispanic, are set up with stores by Ford and then buy out Ford's interest in the dealership with revenues. To give them a boost and, presumably, free up Ford money, Automotive News is reporting that Ford is offering dealers in the program an offer they'll have a hard time refusing: complete ownership of their stores for $1.

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2008 has been a historically woeful year for the auto market, but Ford dealers have been in the crosshairs of a sales decline for over a decade. That brutal reality, along with financial incentives of up to $700,000 or more from the Blue Oval, has lead to the closure of over 500 dealers since mid-2006, and over 150 so far in 2008. To close still more dealers while giving remaining stores a heads-up of future happenings, Ford is embarking on a series of meetings with Ford and Lincoln Mercury deal

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Reuters is reporting that Ford will be shrinking its dealer base over the next three years in order to better align its distribution network with a market share that is smaller than it has been in the past. Dealers were told of the planned reduction at the dealer meeting in Las Vegas last month. The East Coast and California have the highest saturation of Ford dealerships and are likely to see the largest reduction in numbers. At the moment there are about 4,300 Ford dealerships operating in the

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