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Ford puts spiffs on '02 T-Birds in attempt to clear inventory

March 31, 2003
By AMY WILSON | Automotive News

DETROIT - With sales falling below targets, Ford Motor Co. is resorting to incentives to clear out a glut of 2002 Ford Thunderbirds.

In mid-March, Ford began offering dealer cash of $2,000 for 2002 Thunderbirds. Ford also made the 2002 Thunderbird available for employee X-plan discounts, available to Ford suppliers plus friends and family of employees, on March 1. Discounts on the 2002 model have have been available to employees and retirees since late last year.

It is the first time Ford has used spiffs to push sales of the current Thunderbird, which the company revived in 2001 to lend glamour to the Ford brand.

Ford sold 19,085 of the retro-styled roadster in 2002, below its projections of 25,000 annually. After 19 months on the market, Ford had a whopping 183-day supply of Thunderbirds on March 1, up from 33 days a year earlier. Out of 8,500 cars in stock, more than 40 percent - about 3,600 - are 2002 models.

"It may have fallen off a little faster than expected, but I don't know if it's been a disappointment," says Jeff Schuster, director of North American forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates.

"It's been a well-received vehicle," he says. "Its span may just be a little more narrow than Ford initially anticipated."

Despite the 183-day supply, Schuster says Ford is not likely to continue with Thunderbird incentives, and the spring and summer selling season should put the car back on track.

Jim O'Connor, Ford group vice president for North America marketing, sales and service, says he isn't worried about the swelling inventories.

He says incentives are limited to clearing out 2002 models. Ford extended 2002 production into November, while it waited for an upgraded engine to become available for the 2003 model.

O'Connor also notes that convertible sales dip in winter, and Ford is expecting sales to pick up this spring. Ford is targeting Thunderbird sales of a little more than 20,000 for 2003, he says.

The 2002 model starts at $35,495, including a $530 destination charge.

With the dealer cash, Jerry Reynolds of Prestige Ford in Garland, Texas, has sold the 2002 Thunderbird for as much as $2,500 below sticker. When the vehicle debuted in August 2001, some dealers were selling the car for as much as $10,000 above sticker. Reynolds says he is not afraid to stock up on the car now that spring is here.

Says Reynolds: "I've seen more action in the last 10 days on the Thunderbird than in the previous four months.

"I will continue to buy every one they offer me."

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My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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