Incentives abound at Detroit auto show

Jan. 6, 2003 at 4:17 PM
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DETROIT, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Ford Motor Co. kicked off the North American International Auto Show with new low-interest or cash-back offers to spur sales, which jumped 8.2 percent in December.

The world's No. 2 automaker is offering cash incentives and zero- or low-interest financing on most 2003 cars and trucks beginning Tuesday. The buyer incentive programs are part of Ford's new ad campaign using the Rolling Stones' rock 'n' roll anthem, "Start Me Up."

Ford is offering 0-percent financing on five-year loans on Ford Taurus sedans and Windstar minivans or $3,000 in customer cash; 0 percent or $2,000 back on 48-month loans on Ford Focus, or 0 percent financing or $1,000 back on Ford Mustang.

Buyers of Explorer sport utility vehicles can choose either 0 percent loans up to 36 months or $2,000 back while the smaller Ford Escape qualifies for 0 percent financing for three years or $1,000 cash back.

For truck buyers, the Ford Ranger can be purchased with no-interest for up to 60-month loans or $3,000 back, and F-Series pickups offer 0 percent financing up to 36 months or $2,000 customer cash.

The popular 2003 Ford Thunderbird and SVT (Special Vehicle Team) models are not included in the new incentive program.

"The best car-buying market in history has kept sales strong, and we've steadily increased our retail market share on the strength of great new products like Escape, Explorer and Expedition," said Ford Division President Steve Lyons.

U.S. automakers, tired of losing market share to Asian automakers, are pulling out the stops at the 2003 auto show, spending $200 million on new exhibits to fire up interest in new models. This year's show features 750 vehicles, up 50 from 2002. Cobo Hall underwent a $6 million facelift.

Ford, which faces a make-or-break turnaround after losing $5.4 billion in 2001, showed two concepts of a two-seat Mustang GT convertible and coupe it hopes will please older fans of the legendary pony car and attract Generation Y buyers, the 4 million 16-year-olds a year who begin getting their driver's licenses in 2003.

The Mustang has been around since mid-1964, and with the demise of the Chevrolet Camaro, remains one of the few affordable sports cars.

Baby boomers were able to buy a four-seat, six-cylinder 1964 Mustang with 3-speed manual transmission for $2,368, and Ford sold 1 million cars by 1966.

Both GT Mustang concepts are based on the rear-wheel drive Thunderbird and powered by a modified 4.6-liter V-8 engine.

"When you're designing a new Mustang, you're the steward of 40 years of automotive history," said J. Mays, Ford Motor Co. vice president of design. "If you don't get it right, you've got 8 million Mustang fans to answer to. I think we got it right."

Ford showed its redesigned 2004 F-150, the world's best-selling full-sized pickup that has a larger passenger compartment and a deeper cargo box.

In other auto show news:

GM's resident "car guy" Bob Lutz unveiled the concept Cadillac Sixteen, a $250,000, 1,000 horsepower, gull-winged door V-16 that evokes the touring cars of the 1930s. "This car will show the world that we simply will take a back seat to no one," said Lutz, vice chairman and chief of General Motors' product development.

Lutz championed the V-10 Viper when he was at Chrysler and wants GM to build the classically styled retro luxury muscle car. GM increased market share for the second straight year for the first time since 1976 and had its best December sales in 24 years, but it would cost nearly $1 billion to put the V-16 into production.

At the other extreme, GM said it would offer seven fuel-efficient hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles by 2007.

Automobile Magazine named the Nissan 350 Z sports car its 2003 Automobile of the Year, saying, "We're stunned by the goodness of the 350Z's performance."

A group of 49 automotive journalists Sunday named BMW's $16,975 Cooper Mini runabout North American Car of the Year and the Volvo XC 90 SUV was named truck of the year.

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