DETROIT -- Through the end of February, Ford Motor Co. is letting employees and retirees share their discount on a new car or truck with anyone who has a competitive vehicle, according to a memo distributed to dealers.
It’s rare for automakers to allow employee discounts, which are generally the best incentives available, to be used by anyone other than an immediate family member. Unlike with the short-lived “Friends & Neighbors” promotion that Ford ran in November, buyers must obtain a special code from an employee or retiree, but they could save several thousand dollars more under the new deal.
Employees and retirees can each share only one code with a nonfamily member during the program, which began Jan. 8 and runs through Feb. 29, the memo says.
The Ford and Lincoln brands are both eligible for the discounts, which are known as A-Plan and Z-Plan and typically are well below the invoice price. The “Friends & Neighbors” program, which excluded Lincoln, allowed anyone to get an X-Plan discount, also known as supplier pricing, which tends to be around the same price an average buyer already pays.
“It’s about rewarding employees and retirees for a great year,” said Ford spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt, who confirmed the details of the program. Ford does not plan to formally announce the offer, which it’s calling the “A/Z Conquest PIN” program, according to the memo.
“We expect it will have a minimum impact on our overall incentive spend,” Weigandt said.
To get the discount, buyers must show that they own or lease a 1995 or newer vehicle from outside the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands, though they don’t have to trade it in or terminate their lease.
“Employees are encouraged to seek new customers to bring to the Ford and Lincoln brands with this opportunity,” Ford said in a list of “frequently asked questions” attached to the memo. “The existing A/Z program provides employees the ability to reward great savings to immediate family members, and now that can be extended to a friend or neighbor that drives a competitive vehicle. This opportunity represents growth and continued strength for both Ford and Lincoln!”
This is believed to be the first time Ford has made A-Plan pricing available to anyone outside an employee’s immediate family since 2008, when the Detroit 3 automakers all ran a promotion offering the discounts to all consumers.
The promotion follows the “Friends & Neighbors” program, which Ford halted a month earlier than planned after getting a tepid reception from consumers. Ford replaced “Friends & Neighbors” with no-interest financing in December, saying consumers preferred that offer even though both represented about the same level of incentive spending.
Under the new deal, the discounts are larger, but because people have to know an employee or retiree, the pool of potential buyers is much smaller.
The code that employees and retirees can share under this program is in addition to the four A-Plan or Z-Plan and four X-Plan codes they can obtain annually. Along with a discounted price on the vehicle, dealers cannot charge a document fee of more than $75 on A-Plan and Z-Plan sales.
'Competitive and appropriate'
At last week’s Automotive News World Congress, Ford CEO Mark Fields said the automaker wasn’t looking to discount its vehicles more aggressively this year in pursuit of higher market share. Fields said Ford would offer incentives that are “competitive and appropriate” in 2016.
“Some months we won’t do well on share because we have to prioritize profitability,” he said.
Ford’s U.S. share slipped 0.1 percentage point to 14.9 percent in 2015. Now, the company has normal inventories of the aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup and other vehicles that were updated in 2015, which should help with sales, Fields said.
“Market share is important,” he said. “But our objective is to run the business profitably, and you can see that in our results. It’s OK sometimes to have a bit of a smaller business but a more profitable business.”