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Ford enlists workers for sales

Automaker offers rewards to employees who generate sales through discount plan.

David Shepardson / The Detroit News

Ford's sales army

Ford employees who use their discounts to generate sales are eligible for prizes and a chance to win cash or a trip to Dearborn to meet Ford CEO Bill Ford Jr.

Ford employees can go to www.axz.ford.com for more information on the program.

WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co., trying to halt a long sales slide, is offering rewards to employees and retirees who help sell the company's cars and trucks.

If a fleece jacket or messenger bag doesn't convince employees to offer vehicle discounts to their friends and family, Ford is throwing in a chance to win cash or meet Chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr.

The automaker is mailing out informational packets to its 345,000 U.S. employees and retirees to announce the "Ford Ambassadors Club" and "Ambassadors Inner Circle." The mailings will include discount offers employees can give to potential buyers.

"Many of our loyal employees and retirees have asked what more they can do to help improve our company's market share and profitability," Mark Fields, president of Ford's North and South American operations wrote in an e-mail to employees this week. "Remember, if every employee and retiree helps sell just one more vehicle, it will account for nearly 350,000 sales, and more than two additional points of market share."

Most employees are eligible to use eight discounts a year -- four "A-plan" employee discounts that can be used by the employee or their immediate family, and four "X-plan" discounts that can given to friends and neighbors.

Retirees can use "Z-plan" discounts to purchase Ford vehicles.

"Most employees don't use all of their plan privileges," Ford spokesman Jim Cain said. "It's kind of a shame because they are the best ambassadors for the company. You can go to anyone with your head held high and recommend a Ford Fusion or a Lincoln Zephyr, for example."

If employees generate two sales under the program they become Ambassadors Club members and receive a membership letter, a certificate signed by Fields, a lapel pin and the choice of an embroidered polo shirt, duffel bag or cooler. They also have a chance to win $250.

If employees generate four sales through the discounts, the membership letter and certificate is signed by Bill Ford and the employee gets the choice of a fleece jacket, wristwatch or messenger bag.

Employees also have a chance to win a trip to Dearborn to meet Bill Ford -- no matter where they are based.

All Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Land Rover, Jaguar and Volvo vehicles are included. Mazda and Aston Martin vehicles are not part of the promotion.

Both General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group have encouraged their employees to pass along discounts to friends and family.

GM allows senior employees to offer employee discounts to potential purchasers who could be swayed to change their mind and buy a GM product.

In 1991, GM began a similar effort, also called an Ambassador program, which offered employees points they could use toward gifts like hats, shirts and TV sets, said spokeswoman Deborah Silverman.

GM started an initiative in May 2005, called the Ambassador 2 program, which rewards employees who use their discounts to recruit new buyers to GM's brands. For every successful referral, employees receive $100 that's deposited into an account and used toward the purchase of a GM vehicle.

Employees can earn $1,500 a year and use up to $1,000 per vehicle purchase, Silverman said. "We do a lot with our Web site to educate our employees and retirees about our products," Silverman said.

Chrysler doesn't offer employees prizes for using their employee discounts, spokesman Jason Vines said. "We're actively in town hall meetings to make sure our employees are armed with information about the products and the features," Vines said.
 
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