Ford F-150 Lightning dealer backs down from $10,000 markup
As Ford Motor Co. urges its auto dealers not to jack up prices on the popular F-150 Lightning pickup truck, at least one dealer appears to have reversed a plan to charge an extra $10,000 over sticker price.
Longime Ford customer Chris Chase, a construction worker from Dorchester, Massachusetts, provided to the Free Press a letter dated Jan. 14 from Herb Chambers Ford of Braintreeto illustrate the big shift.
The metro Boston dealership, which less than a week ago defended its enhanced pricing to the Free Press, declined to comment Monday.
But Chase was delighted.
He had bristled at what he previously called a "predatory" situation that put him "on the fence" about whether to convert his reservation for the truck to an official order.
The new letter eased Chase's concern and now he plans to move forward with his purchase. He's relieved to see his dealer now say it will honor the manufacturer's suggested retail price listing or MSRP:
"I am glad the new electric trucks will be sold at MSRP!" Chase wrote the Free Press Sunday.
"I am going to buy it!" he said, adding he'd likely go with the Pro.
From $10,000 to $0
Chase's experience illustrates a challenge facing Ford these days.
He was first stunned by a Jan. 3 dealer letter that said, "As a dealership we are going to be selling these Vehicles over MSRP ... the price point has been set at $10,000 over MSRP."
Letters like these have triggered a sudden and angry response from buyers that surfaced on Twitter and Facebook. Ford sent a warning letter Jan. 7 to all dealers nationwide saying public backlash to markups could hurt the company and its dealer network. In the letter, Ford threatened to withhold pickup trucks from bad actor dealerships.
PSA: If you’re ordering a new vehicle, it’s recommended customers agree to a selling price with their dealer when *the order is placed* via a signed purchase agreement. Keep records. If the dealer won’t sign or write a price confirmation, find another dealer.
— Mike Levine (@mrlevine) December 31, 2021
Reports of price hikes peppered social media.
The situation has been simmering for weeks.
Mike Levine, Ford North America product communications director, tweeted on Dec. 31, "If you're ordering a new vehicle, it’s recommended customers agree to a selling price with their dealer when 'the order is placed' via a signed purchase agreement. Keep records. If the dealer won’t sign or write a price confirmation, find another dealer."
In fact, Ford noted that its dealers helped craft the letter that urged fair pricing with help from its dealer network -- in an attempt to get everyone on the same page with a product that has overwhelming demand and a long waiting list.
When the Free Press reached out on Jan. 10 to a Herb Chambers employee who sent the original letter, the dealership replied with a company statement that did not deny its plan to mark up Lightning prices prior to its late spring launch.
The dealership said earlier it "took this opportunity to be fully transparent about the eventual transaction price with reservation holders. When a reservation holder initially placed their reservation, they were never provided with transaction pricing for a vehicle."
The Herb Chambers Ford statement continued, "The launch announcement/update published on January 07, 2021, does not discuss MSRP or the concept of charging over MSRP. It is the dealership’s interpretation that the announcement/update was simply telling dealers not to require additional deposits from the client when converting their reservation to an order.”
Chase said he feels better after reading the Jan. 14 letter addressed to Lightning customers.
"As we mentioned in prior emails, our goal is to be as helpful, open, and transparent as possible with all of our customers who made reservations for the new Ford Lightning. This truck is groundbreaking in every way, including the way customers reserve one, order one, and ultimately take delivery of one! For all of us involved - Ford, the dealers and you the customer, this has been a new and evolving process as we all adapt to these changing times.
"Based on the uniqueness of the Lightning, it’s very limited initial production, and the relatively small number of you who will be fortunate enough to secure an order for the 2022 model year, we have decided to sell all 2022 Lightnings reserved through Ford.com, at Ford’s suggested retail price," the Herb Chambers email said. "Final pricing for all Lightnings will be reflected on Ford.com when you place your order."
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The letter appears to have been sent and signed by Scott Lewis, general manager of Herb Chambers Ford of Braintree.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the dealership said it had "no further comment on the matter at this time.
The Herb Chambers Companies own more than 60 dealerships, including the largest Lexus and Honda dealers in New England. Herb Chambers also sells Audi, Bentley, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Genesis, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, MINI, Porsche, RAM, Toyota and Volvo, according to the company website.
Ford spokesperson Said Deep did not comment on the latest development with Herb Chambers. He told the Free Press Sunday the maker of America's bestselling F-Series just wants "to be sure customers have a great purchase experience."
Ford dealers are emailing reservation holders in waves to determine how many want to convert their $100 refundable reservation to an official order as it works to follow up on an estimated 200,000 reservations. Ford had to stop the reservation process in December because the wait for the Lightning has stretched into 2023.
Customers started officially converting reservations to orders on Jan. 6. And when Ford CEO Jim Farley announced a production target of 150,000 a year, Ford stock climbed.
The Lightning is built at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn. The automaker plans to start delivering the vehicles in late spring or early summer.
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Contact Phoebe Wall Howard firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-618-1034. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Dealer reverses F-150 Lightning price markup after Ford urges MSRP