Ford, GM Ante Up

Ford and General Motors both announced programs today that they hope will bolster sagging auto sales and offer buyers with job insecurity a life line.

The two automakers announced programs that will cover car payments for buyers who lose their jobs after purchasing a new car. Their programs are similar to one launched earlier this year by Hyundai Motor Co. except the American incentives go much deeper.

Ford will cover car payments of up to $700 each month for up to a year on any new Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury vehicle if the buyer loses his or her job. The program runs through June 1.

GM will cover up to nine car payments of up to $500 each if the buyer loses his or her job and qualifies for state unemployment benefits. The GM program lasts through April 30. The GM incentives are part of the struggling automaker’s new “Total Confidence” program aimed at most of the apprehensions would-be car buyers have about buying a new GM vehicle. GM has packaged the payment-protection plan with one that guarantees the equity value of a buyer’s new car once he or she is halfway through the financing term. GM is launching a new Web site at www.GMconfidence.com to communicate the details.

Ford said that it would soon be annoucing a program in partnership with its dealers to assist local charities. Stay tuned.

With these latest incentives, prevalent zero percent financing offers, a new federal tax deduction for sales tax on new cars, and prices down steeply from a year ago, this may be one of the best times to buy a new vehicle in several years. Of course, that’s if you need one and can afford it.

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