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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 06:23 GMT 07:23 UK
Ford shakes-up car discount plan
Ford chairman and CEO Bill Ford
Ford is facing stiff competition in its home market
US carmaker Ford has ditched a discount scheme which allows customers to buy its cars at the same price as the company's workers.

Ford said it had replaced customers' access to employee discounts with cash rebates and low-cost loans.

Ford's Family Plan programme had helped the carmaker report two months of higher sales, but the scheme lost its appeal to US consumers last month.

On Monday, Ford said its sales in the US had dropped by 20% in September.

Sales of gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles (SUVs) were particularly hit, as US petrol prices rose above $3 a gallon in many parts of the country.

Japanese competition

Ford said it would offer rebates on some 2006 models, including $500 on the Focus, Fusion and the Freestyle wagon and $3,000 on the larger Expedition SUV.

America's second-largest carmaker said it would also offer zero percent financing for current year models.

"The Family Plan was our most successful model year-end sales event ever and we expect that zero percent financing will help us sell-out our few remaining 2005 models several weeks earlier than normal," said spokesman Jim Cain.

Ford, along with its larger US rival General Motors, has been facing stiff competition in its home market from Japanese carmakers Toyota, Nissan and Honda.

Ford said sales of its Explorer, the best-selling SUV in the US, dropped by almost two-thirds in September, while GM reported a 24% fall in overall sales.

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