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First Cash Incentive From Automaker on New Pick-Ups

DETROIT, Dec 5, 2003; Reuters reported that Ford Motor Co. has put its first broad cash rebate and no-interest loan offer on its key new F-150 pickup, roughly three months after it went on sale, in an effort to press competitors before the end of the year.

Ford told its dealers on Thursday it was offering a $1,000 rebate or a three-year, zero-percent loan on the F-150, as well as other loan deals such as a six-year, 2.9-percent loan. The rebate and zero-percent loan isn't offered on the four-door SuperCrew version of the truck, which accounted for almost half of new F-150 sales in November.

Ford had previously offered $1,000 rebates to previous Ford owners and customers trading in Chevrolet or Dodge full-size pickups.

"We think these are modest incentives, and basically a sign of the success we've had in the marketplace," said Ford spokeswoman Karen Shaughnessy.

The 2004 version of the F-150 is a key part of Ford's turnaround plans, and part of the F-Series lineup that's considered the world's best-selling vehicle line. Ford has called the new F-150 its most important new vehicle launch ever.

Analysts questioned how much profit Ford could get from the truck when it was launched in September given its higher assembly costs and cutthroat competition in the U.S. market. But Ford executives said the truck would provide a higher profit margin than the old model, which continues to be sold in a low-end version.

Ford said it sold about 23,000 of the new F-150s in November, boosting overall F-Series truck sales by 10 percent over the same month a year ago. Ford executives said earlier this week that customers were buying a richer mix of F-150s, with about 60 percent sold in the two most expensive trim levels.

The full-size pickup market has been booming in recent months, as General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler arm have pushed hard to lock up customers in the face of Ford's $200 million advertising blitz for the F-150. GM currently offers $2,500 cash and no-interest loans on its Chevrolet Silverado, along with free options. Chrysler has also offered $2,500 off its Dodge Ram pickup.