Ford has not yet named the new enterprise, but said that it will remain within the company. Effective immediately, company vice president Brian P. Kelley will head the new unit, and will report to a board of directors comprised of several of the company's executive vice presidents, Ford representatives said.
"The thinking at top of the house was to consolidate all [e-commerce] activity and to make sure it was indeed customer focused," Ford spokeswoman Carolyn Brown said.
Ford's announcement follows in the footsteps of a similar announcement from rival General Motors made last month, and comes as increasing numbers of consumers are initiating the buying process online.
Brown said that the new enterprise will essentially be an umbrella organization for all of the company's Internet initiatives. In addition to the company's Ford.com Web site, the enterprise will manage everything from the company's online marketing efforts with sites such as iVillage to its DealerConnection and OwnerConnection sites.
To date, Ford has urged its dealers to get up to speed online and set up Web sites. However, the company already faces heated competition for consumers' attention online. Rivals in the market not only include GM and other manufacturers, but also automobile sales sites such as Autoweb.com and Autobytel.com. Auction sites such as Priceline and eBay also pose a threat.