Case Study of Incentives: 2015 Ford Expedition

Steve Lynch
by Steve Lynch

In my recent test of the 2015 Ford Expedition, I wanted to give a sense of real-word pricing rather than just MSRP, so I quoted TrueCar’s estimate of the average discount available on the vehicle. I had planned to quote available cash and lease incentives direct from Ford’s website, but after 15 minutes of research my head started hurting and the story would have been longer than DeadWeight’s diatribes on what’s wrong with Cadillac.

So let’s take a separate look at the quagmire of incentives that Ford offers you to buy an Expedition. Before you click the jump, do you know the expansion of the above acronym “RCL” ?

There’s no doubt 99 percent of the B&B know the correct answer is “Red Carpet Lease.” So does the RCL Customer Cash incentive mean Ford will throw $3,750 in trunk money if you lease? The answer is a definite, absolute maybe. The “S3” asterisk leads to legal mumbo-jumbo, not an explanation of the offer. Nowhere on Ford’s website are details published of the $3,750 lease money or the definition of “RCL.”

The fine print says, “See dealer for residency restrictions and complete details.” Attention Ford: customers go to your website so they don’t have to go to the dealership to learn about your products and offers.

And don’t get me started on Ford using industry lingo like “RCL.” I have tried to pound this Advertising 101 principle into dealers’ heads for years: Speak in the consumer’s language and not your own. I cringe when I see the phrase “ brass hat car” or similar without explanation in a dealership’s promos. You would think Ford and other automakers would know better.

Let’s dive deeper. After building your Expedition, you can click on “Get Local Offers”:

It says you may receive 72-month, 0% APR financing or $2,750 in trunk money, but the fine print points out the cash is a combination of $1,500 in Customer Cash, $750 in Competitive Lease Conquest and $500 in Ford Credit Bonus Cash. So you would need a leased vehicle in your driveway and finance the Expedition through Ford Credit to get the full $2,750. Nowhere in the fine print does it say you have to trade in your leased vehicle. The competitive model set is identified as all non-Ford products, so your leased Mini counts as a competitor to the Expedition.

But where is my $3,750 in RCL cash? Look under Lease Offers link and you find: “Please contact your local dealer for the latest information on our current lease offers.” (We are not telling you this again!)

The remaining offer buttons show an eye chart of which incentives may be combined and an additional $500 Military Appreciation Bonus Cash offer for active military members only, the latter mentioned in the fine print of many Ford dealers’ ads in font far smaller the their “$XXXX DISCOUNT” headline.

Bottom line: the maximum cash incentive available is $3,250 for military members and $2,750 for non-military if you meet all the requirements. Walk into a Ford dealer to ask the average salesperson about the $3,750 offer and I am sure they can fill you in on the details: “Dunno, but if I get you $3,750 off, will you buy today?”

The lack of transparency by Ford on their lease deals may be a case of cowtowing to their dealers as the retailers hate factory-advertised lease specials. The exact configuration of the featured vehicle is rarely available and the deal structure needed to hit the payment not only cuts the dealers’ margin on the sale of the car but also mandates a low money factor and a non-marked up lease acquisition fee so the store’s profit is limited in three areas.

Let us leave you with one more example of the strange world of Ford incentives: there is $500 cash available on the Explorer (but not the Expedition) for current police officials called the “2015 Police Association IUPA and NAPO Appreciation Program.” I am all about supporting our LEOs, but should anyone of a certain occupation get a better deal than other people?

Advertised incentives are only the fin of the shark: most carmakers have a wide range of confidential factory-to-dealer cash programs, some based upon a dealership hitting a specific sales objective. These so-called “Stair-Step” incentives create in theory the situation where one dealer could offer a deeper discount than another. The information on quiet cash programs is as hidden as Hillary’s emails, but among the B&B are many automotive retail folks who will be glad to tell us some incentive horror stories, right?

Steve Lynch
Steve Lynch

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  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Aug 11, 2015

    My one and only delve into the incentives game was when I bought my '08 Saab 9-3SC during the '09 Carmageddon fire sale. I thought GM/Saab was reasonably transparent about the whole thing. There were a couple oddball ones like the $750 for being a credit union member. That one really bit them, as when I went to join the CU to qualify for the rebate, they also ended up financing the car. Oops. All told, just about *$14K* in rebates and discounts on that car. Best deal ever, and it was a great car too. The Germans don't generally play these games. For my BMW it was $3100 off for European Delivery, and another ~$3K off from the dealer. And $400 in surprise dealership rewards I didn't even know about until I went in to sign my life away. No above the line factory incentives on that car at all. Had I not done ED, I could have gotten $1K off for doing one of their drive events. But I probably would have gotten much less off from the dealer as ED cars don't come out of their allocation - they are basically "extra" sales for them.

  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Aug 11, 2015

    Yes I have noticed that some manufacturers are more transparent than others. Generally I find Dodge's site to be pretty easy to figure out what you might qualify for and how you might qualify for it.

  • William I feel very sorry for those who attempt to use an attack on a product as a way to deprecate an individual whose politics they disagree with. They delude themselves and mislead others.
  • Arthur Dailey Have to admit that I love that interior colour. And also like the upholstery on the seats and the inside of the door panels. And when was the last time you saw a door hanging coffee cup holder? Some here probably didn't know that such a device existed.
  • Buickman this is about cars. I miss Robert.
  • 28-Cars-Later Can we end debt slavery next? Its getting to the point where its no longer voluntary.
  • Carson D Honda and Toyota still make the best American cars.