US auto giant Ford Motor Company has revealed its latest marketing ploy to boost sales and accelerate 2005 models from dealer lots.

The company is replacing its Ford Family Plan - vehicles sold to the public at employee discount prices - with traditional cash rebates and cheap loans.

The new plan will give customers cash incentives or zero percent finance for up to five years on 2005 models. For 2006 models, Ford will offer cash rebates ranging from $500 (€419; £284) to $3,000 on gas-guzzling SUVs, or interest rates as low as 2.9% for 36 months.

Spokesman Jim Cain expects the zero percent financing to clear 2005 models to "basically nothing" by the beginning of January.

The spiralling cost of fuel in the US and an end to the summer season's employee discount programs saw a major downturn in vehicle sales last month.

Ford reported a 20% drop in September, while General Motors saw an even larger fall of 24%. Chrysler, however, reported a sales increase of 4% and says its advertising will stress safety features and extras on its vehicles, rather than cash rebates.

Data sourced from International Herald Tribune Online; additional content by WARC staff