Such a deal? Not necessarily.

July 5, 2005
I grew up in the sort of household where one often heard, "I can get it for you wholesale" from friends and family members. So I could easily identify with the incredible reaction to General Motors' "You Pay What We Pay" incentive program last month. After all, what could be better than getting the same sort of discount the automaker normally reserves for employees and cherished vendors? More on that in a moment, but for at least the next month, it seems, the deal is back, and it will soon be available at Chrysler Group and Ford Motor Co. dealerships, as well.

The number two automaker will call its own program the "Ford Family Plan," and it will be offered on all but a handful of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products. The exceptions include the sold-out Mustang -- nor surprise there, as GM excluded the hot Corvette. Expect a similar package when Chrysler announces details on Wednesday morning, thought chief of pr Jason Vines hints there will be some "surprises." There's no question that Chrysler is in a better position than its cross-town rivals, struggling to keep up with demand for a number of new products, including the 300 sedan and just about anything with a Hemi in it. But it was equally obvious Chrysler had to cough up the extra cash if GM kept its "You Pay" campaign going. After a dismal launch to 2005, the industry giant saw its sales soar by 46 percent in June, market share soaring to an outrageous 33 percent.

As with any automotive purchase, these employee discount programs are a prime example of caveat emptor. That's "buyer beware" for those who flunked Latin. Ford is offering about $8000 off sticker on the Explorer SUV, a good $1000 or more added onto previous incentive programs. But under the Family Plan, you'll actually pay a bit more for the Taurus sedan than you would have last month. And it's not the only exception at Ford -- or GM. That's why analysts aren't as upset as they were when the General dropped its bombshell back at the beginning of June. In all, incentives went up only slightly. These new programs just simplify all the dealmaking. And that's an advantage all unto itself.

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