Ford Motor Co. is improving the way it sends new and improved Web-based tools to its dealers.

In the past, the automaker would deliver them in a scattered, shotgun approach, creating frustration and unnecessary expenses for the dealers.

Now Ford is packaging related Internet tools for delivery. The new strategy has saved dealers $17 million so far this year, says Chuck Sullivan, Ford's e-marketing manager.

“We've made some significant investment in technology, and we want our dealers to be able to leverage that investment to sell more Ford vehicles,” he says.

The tools are improving, too, says Paul Miller, Internet manager for Capital Ford in Raleigh, NC.

An enhanced vehicle locator “is so much faster — and we can search night and day,” he says. “What used to take me 15 minutes now takes two to three at the most.”

Dealers now pay a pre-set price for using the vehicle locater, whereas before they paid by the minute.

“Our cost has gone down significantly,” Miller says.

The latest package includes a rebuilt DealerConnection Website tool. It provides dealers with more flexibility — dealers can choose from more than 50 different themes to design their Web sites, plus they can link to third-party sites. Also new is a real-time publishing capability for immediate changes.