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Old 08-26-2003, 13:05   #1 (permalink)
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U.S.A.:F-150 launch sparks a fierce price war over full-sized pickups

By AMY WILSON | Automotive News

As Ford Motor Co. rolls out its redesigned 2004 F-150 this month, a fierce price war is under way over full-sized pickups.
Chevrolet has armed its dealerships with discounts of as much as $6,500 on the Silverado to suck as many buyers as possible out of the market, and Dodge is offering large incentives on the Ram.

Ford, aiming to defend the No. 1 sales position and market share of its F series, is countering with extensive deals on its 2003 F-150.

Incentives go beyond large national rebates. Members of special groups - the American Quarter Horse Association, in Ford's case, or military members, in all cases - can use special rebates on the trucks. Loyalty bonuses and rebates for financing with a captive finance arm are available, too.

Direct-mail campaign

Ford and Chevrolet also are blanketing targeted customers with direct-mail coupons. Ford is mailing more than 220,000 offers of as much as $750 off a 2003 F-150, and it is honoring a $1,000 direct-mail pitch from Chevrolet. Many of the offers can be combined to reach staggering amounts of factory cash. For instance, Chevrolet customers could stack a $3,000 national rebate, a $1,000 loyalty coupon, a $500 regional bonus and $2,000 off a 1500 model with Quadrasteer.

In some instances, customers in Ford's incentive sweet spot also can claim as much as $6,500.

"You'll see a full-court press from Chevy," says Tommy Brasher, a Chevrolet dealer in Weimar, Texas, and co-chairman of the Chevrolet national dealer council. "They won't let up."

Buoyed by a midmonth General Motors loyalty bonus, the Silverado finished July as the best-selling vehicle in the United States, usurping the F series' usual place.

Though some customers may combine deals for huge rebates, the typical incentive total is lower. July's incentives, including rebates, discounted loans, lease support and other programs, cost an estimated $3,183 per

F series for Ford, $3,828 per Silverado for Chevrolet and $3,917 per Ram for Dodge, according to Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

Ford largely has matched GM's full-sized truck incentives, though it has made some exceptions for hot models such as Crew Cab pickups and trucks equipped with diesel engines.

After the 2003 model is cleared out, Ford intends to use its 2004 F-150 Heritage, a carryover of the 2003 model, to battle competitors head-to-head on incentives.

The automaker began producing the 2004 Heritage last week at its truck plant in Oakville, Ontario.

The redesigned 2004 F-150, already being assembled at plants in Norfolk, Va., and Kansas City, Mo., will be exempt from large discounts for as long as Ford can hold out.

"We all know that Chevy and Dodge and even the imports are going to come after this truck to blunt the introduction, and Ford is going to do whatever it has to do to protect their position," said Ford dealer Randy Fuller of Fullers' White Mountain Motors in Show Low, Ariz.

The redesigned F-150 began shipping to dealerships at the end of July and has sold in small numbers.

Ford is planning an estimated $100 million promotional blitz beginning Friday, Aug. 29, with advertising on football broadcasts and other sporting events.

Some Ford dealerships are holding the trucks in their showrooms to let more customers see it before the vehicles are sold. Others have sold the trucks but told the buyer they must wait a week or two to pick it up so they can build enthusiasm with other truck shoppers. Other dealerships are waiting to get their trucks.

Some loans offered

Some discounted loans are available on the redesigned truck, and buyers can use some of the special cash offers available across Ford's vehicle lineup.

Ford says it will hold off on big-ticket national cash deals.

But larger rebates on the 2004 F-150 may be inevitable, say Ford dealers and competitor dealers.

"They're going to have to be competitive in price," said Jim Arrigo of Arrigo Dodge in West Palm Beach, Fla., and chairman of Dodge's national dealer council. "And the only way you can be competitive in price is to be competitive in the incentive game, unfortunately."
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