- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

DETROIT, Jan. 24 (UPI) — The incentive war between General Motors and Ford is heating up with the world's two largest automakers sweetening cash-back deals for full-size pickups.

GM increased current rebates on full-size trucks by $500 to $2,500 on Thursday and Ford quickly matched the offer, which runs through Jan. 31.

GM is pushing incentives to sell the Chevrolet Silverado, its best-selling full-size pickup, the Chevy Avalanche and the GMC Sierra.

Chrysler offers $2,000 cash back on its big Dodge Ram and has not indicated if it would match the larger rebates. Toyota offers a rebate of up to $1,500 on its full-size Tundra.

For the second consecutive year, sales of 2002 light trucks, vans and sport-utility vehicles surpassed sales of passenger cars.

Industry analysts said now that Ford has redesigned its best-selling F-150 pickup, it is prepared to go toe-to-toe with GM on pricing. The Big Three and Toyota also face new competition in the full-size truck segment from the just-introduced Nissan Titan, which debuted at the North American International Auto Show.

January light truck sales were expected to be down as much as 4 percent from last year's levels, with GM suffering the most losses.

Ford last week offered to waive up to eight monthly payments for returning customers with leased pickups if they get a new model.

More than 1 million GM and Ford owners have leases that expire this year, according to Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore.

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