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Used vehicles join incentives fray

The certified used-vehicle sales race is getting more interesting.

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors announced cut-rate financing on select certified used vehicles this month.

On Sept. 7, Ford began offering 6.9 percent financing on contracts of up to 60 months. That program expires Dec. 31. GM's program, which began Sept. 14, offers 4.9 percent to 6.9 percent financing for 36- to 60-month contracts. It runs through October.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., which sold 126,136 certified used vehicles through August, is the leader in certified used-vehicle sales. Through Toyota Motor Credit Corp., it is offering nationally special financing of 5.9 percent on 60-month contracts on the Corolla, Camry and Camry Solara. That program runs through Oct. 1.

Other Toyota certified used vehicles are included in the program on a regional basis, said Norm Olson, marketing operations manager for Toyota Certified Used Vehicles.

But GM and Ford revamped their programs this year and vowed to treat certified used vehicles more like new vehicles. They say their efforts are paying off.

Dana Hammer, manager of GM Certified Used Vehicles, said the company placed incentives on certified used vehicles for the first time in June and July. He said that program was highly successful and created much momentum. Hammer declined to give January to August sales numbers, but GM and its dealers sold 12,340 certified used vehicles in August, the first month the company reported certified used-vehicle sales numbers. The numbers include Cadillac and Saturn.

"Bill Lovejoy (GM group vice president of vehicles sales, service and marketing) challenged us to double our sales, and we are on track to exceed that," Hammer said.

GM sold 30,000 certified used vehicles last year. It wants to double that number this year and reach 120,000 in 2002.

While manufacturer-sponsored certified used-vehicle programs vary, they work pretty much the same. Eligible vehicles have been inspected thoroughly and reconditioned, are late model and low mileage and are covered by a manufacturer warranty.

GM, through its General Motors Acceptance Corp., is offering 4.9 percent financing for 36 months on a certified used Chevrolet Impala, Monte Carlo and Blazer; Buick Regal and Century; Olds-mobile Intrigue and Bravada; and GMC Jimmy.

The company also is offering 5.9 percent financing for 48 months and 6.9 percent for 60 months on all other certified used vehicles, excluding Cadillac and Saturn.

Ford, through its Ford Motor Credit Cop., first offered special financing of 5.9 percent on Ford Quality-Checked Certified Pre-Owned Explorers during June and July. The current financing program includes certified used Ford Explorers, Tauruses and Crown Victorias and Mercury Mountaineers, Sables and Grand Marquis.

Mike Dennis, manager of used-vehicle certification at Ford, declined to give sales numbers but said sales are growing at a fast pace.

"The pace," he said, "is 50 percent per month."

You can reach Arlena Sawyers at asawyers@crain.com

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