Ford Division will give all of its dealerships, including small rural stores, at least one 2002 Ford Thunderbird, under a new division policy.
The highly anticipated roadster is likely to sell for at least $10,000 above sticker in some parts of the country, predicts the chairman of the Ford Division National Dealer Council. The new Thunderbird is expected to have a manufacturer's suggested retail price of more than $40,000 for top-of-the-line models.
'If customers want to be one of the first for something this limited, they will have to pay for it. They don't mind,' said Jerry Reynolds, the council chairman.
'Personally, I don't sell anything for more than window sticker. But it will be up to each dealer to decide what his market will bear. In some parts of the country that could mean more than $10,000 over sticker.'
Ford has not asked its dealers to abide by the sticker price, said Reynolds, owner of Prestige Ford in Garland, Texas.
All 4,100 Ford Division dealers will receive at least one Thunderbird because of a policy change initiated at the request of the dealer council. When Ford Division introduces a new product, according to the new policy, every dealer must get at least one unit before any dealer gets a second unit.
Ford will not disclose anticipated Thunderbird volume. Dealers expect Ford to build 20,000 to 25,000 units in the 2002 model year.
Coming to Detroit show
Ford will introduce the 2002 production Thunderbird at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. The model goes on sale in the summer. The company has not specified a month.
In September, Ford offered 200 units of a specially designed Neiman-Marcus Edition Thunderbird through the store's famous Christmas Book.
The model sold out in two hours and 15 minutes. A 3.9-liter, 32-valve V-8 engine with a five-speed automatic transmission powers the limited edition.
Every Ford store already knows its Thunderbird allocation for the 2002 model year.
'We wanted dealers to know as far in advance as possible how many Thunderbirds they would get so they don't end up frustrating customers by promising more Thunderbirds than they will receive, ' said Terry Bresnihan, Ford spokesman.
No Ford dealer is likely to receive more than 50 Thunderbirds, Reynolds said.
Allocation is based on three factors, Reynolds said:
1. A dealership's car sales. Light-truck sales are not included.
2. Previous Thunderbird sales.
3. Luxury-car sales for all makes in the market.
'Ford will put the higher concentration of Thunderbirds where luxury sales are very good,' Reynolds said, citing Florida, California and some parts of Texas as strong luxury vehicle markets.
Including small dealers
Dealers pressed Ford Division to give all stores at least one unit of a new product after the introduction of the 2001 Explorer Sport Trac, Reynolds said.
'The Sport Trac hit the market in March,' Reynolds said.
'In August, it came to light that some select (small) dealers never got a Sport Trac. There was national TV advertising. Customers were coming in and the dealers had to place a retail order which may or may not get built.'
Ford calls its smaller stores selling fewer than 250 new units a year select dealerships.
The 2002 Thunderbird roadster inherits design cues from the past, including porthole windows, hood scoop, egg-crate grille and round lamps.