For the first time, Ford Division is using a discount to sell the Ford Expedition sport-utility.
Ford is offering a $400 option-package discount on 1998 Expedition XLT models. The Expedi-tion and its companion, the Lincoln Navigator, are Ford Motor Co.'s most profitable vehicles.
Rising lease payments, increased competition and loss of sales to the Navigator and the Ford Explorer led to the discount.
'We want to keep our truck competitive,' Ford spokesman George Pipas said. 'We've had some success with option packages. We'll see if this works.'
Expedition sales dropped 21.8 percent in May and were off 10.8 percent in the first five months of the year to 88,310 units.
But a year ago, the Expedition faced no competition from the Navigator, Pipas said.
Ford introduced the Expedition in October 1996 and the Navigator in June 1997. On a combined basis, Expedition/Navigator sales rose 8.7 percent in the first five months of 1998.
The $400 discount on XLT models began May 14 and bundles the vehicle's optional third-row bench seat, special tires and cast aluminum wheels into a special appearance package.
Said dealer Bob Backus of Backus Ford in Syracuse, N.Y.: 'Our sales (of Expeditions) are still strong. But we've seen a shift from sales of higher-priced models to more moderately priced units in the $33,000 range. We are also finding that it is easier to get more product to sell.'
Intern Nick Twork contributed to this report