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Auto Maker to Delay Introduction of New Mid-Size Line : Ford Plans Discounts on Options

October 01, 1985|Associated Press

DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford Motor, which increased its car prices 2.9% for 1986, said Monday that it would offer some discounts on optional equipment to lure buyers into showrooms.

Ford also said its new line of mid-size, front-wheel-drive family cars, the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable, won't be formally introduced by dealers until Dec. 26, several months later than planned and nearly six weeks later than Ford's last estimate of mid-November.

The nation's second-largest auto maker said it will begin offering optional equipment in groups that it feels customers want and restrict the number of variations available for a particular car.

For example, a buyer wanting power steering but not power brakes may now be out of luck. However, Robert Rewey, the general manager of the Ford car division, said buyers are ordering lots of options anyway, so selling them in packages instead of individually will drive down the total price.

Rewey, at a preview of the company's 1986 cars, said Ford expects to gain substantial savings through lower supply inventories and increased productivity among assembly-line workers.

"It limits customer choices but it will greatly simplify our production," Rewey said. "If you're able to get the complexity out of the system, you have an engineering savings. It's efficiency, and quality saves money.

Savings to Vary

"We've very carefully lined up the way we want to package the cars, so it's the way that they (customers) want to buy them; it's not forcing them to buy them" a certain way, Rewey said.

Savings on options packages in 1986 will range from $100 on the smallest Ford cars to $1,300 on the turbocharged Thunderbird, the company said. However, Ford officials said they didn't know how much of that will be manufacturing savings and how much will be simply bait to drum up sales.

The four-door Taurus sedan will start at $9,645, or $387 less than the car that it replaces, the rear-drive Ford LTD. The Taurus wagon will start at $10,763, or $631 more than the current LTD wagon.

The Mercury Sable will start at $10,700, the company said.

However, Rewey said a Taurus carrying a typical amount of optional equipment, including a V-6 engine, will sell "in the mid-$12,000 range."

Similarly, Thomas Wagner Lincoln-Mercury division general manager, said the typical Sable will sell for slightly less than $13,000.

The post-Christmas introduction date is the result of delays in laying out the assembly plant in Atlanta, which was gutted and refitted with computerized robotics and automated machines.

"It's quite new and quite revolutionary and is taking a longer time than we had thought," Louis Lataif, head of North American automotive operations for Ford, told reporters. Lataif said the start-up of new products from supply companies also was going more slowly than planned.

Ford officials have said they would rather start late than bring out a new vehicle that develops quality problems. Also, Ford has been cutting heavily into General Motors' market share all year, giving the Taurus-Sable project more breathing room.

Taurus and Sable production is planned at 500,000 cars a year, split between the Atlanta and Chicago assembly plants.

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