Ford's threat to price gouging F-150 Lightning dealers is huge

For many years now, some of the dealers in Ford's network have been acting shady when it comes to highly desired Ford cars and trucks. One of the most despicable practices as far as many Ford fans are concerned is the extremely common occurrence of dealerships adding "market adjustments" to the MSRP of high-performance and off-road Ford vehicles. For example, anyone who's tried to purchase a high-end or limited-edition Mustang has had to deal with dealerships that tack thousands and thousands of dollars onto the MSRP, simply because they can.

Market adjustments and the act of marking up prices on vehicles that people have reserved very much turns Ford fans off from the brand, not to mention hurting the reputation of the company and its dealer network. In the past, Ford did get tough with one dealership that was tacking a significant markup onto the Mustang Mach-E. It looks like Ford is now taking additional steps to stop price gouging F-150 Lightning dealers.

Ford Takes Steps to Protect Lightning Reservation Holders

A new report has surfaced that started with the F150gen14 forum, where one members posted a message Ford apparently sent to specific dealerships. Before we get into the content of the message, it's important to note the forum now has a notice up that says the bulletin sent to dealers was removed at Ford's request. Like anything that goes on the Internet, though, once it's up, you can never take it down.

Jalopnik was able to copy the bulletin and still has it available on its website as of writing. Essentially, the bulletin outlines some shady goings-on at a limited number of dealerships. Ford says in its message that these dealerships are interacting with customers in a way that negatively impacts customer satisfaction and damages the company name and dealership network.

The bulletin calls out an example of "these negative interactions," pointing to dealerships reaching out to customers on the reservation list for the Lightning and attempting to leverage more deposits or payments from them. The deposit to purchase an F-150 Lightning started at $100 when the automaker opened its reservations process after announcing the pickup. Ford says in its statement that trying to get reservation holders to make additional deposits or payments is not allowed under the Sales and Service agreement between the automaker and the dealership.

Specifically, that paragraph says that the dealer is barred from any type of "bait," illegal advertising practice, and deceptive or misleading marketing or sales tactics. For any dealership that continues to act shady regarding reservation holders for the Lightning, Ford points out some serious consequences.

Ford's Consequence for Shady Dealers

Any dealership Ford catches falling afoul of best practices when it comes to Lightning reservation holders can face a penalty that the dealers will certainly want to avoid. Ford says any dealer that engages in the practices it calls out could have their allocation of F-150 Lightning trucks redirected for the entire 2022 model year. That means the dealers will lose access to any F-150 Lightning trucks for its entire first year of availability.

That's a significant issue for these dealers, who would face being unable to sell one of the most highly anticipated trucks Ford has ever offered. It is very interesting that Ford is only now taking steps to prevent these actions, even though the agreement between it and dealers specifically bars it. Similar practices have occurred with other popular Ford models in the past.

Several Mustang fans over the years have special ordered limited-edition vehicles only to have the dealers try and squeeze more money out of them in market adjustments when the cars arrive. Ford taking this action now shows how important the F-150 Lightning is to the company. Ford was successful in beating most of its competition to market with an electric pickup available to the masses; the automaker clearly wants to protect its pickup sales crown in an electric future.

No-Sale Provision

It may come as no surprise that Ford dealers aren't the only ones who can be shady when dealing with popular and limited availability vehicles. Vehicle buyers also have a long history there, particularly with hard-to-get and limited edition Mustang models, of buying a car or securing an allocation with no intention of keeping – or even buying – the vehicle for themselves. Instead, some simply secure the allocation or buy the vehicle so they can turn around and flip it instantly for a massive profit.

A perfect example of this is the 2020 Shelby GT500, where we saw people trying to flip allocations they secured for cars that weren't built yet for a profit on eBay. When it came to the GT supercar, Ford added a no-sale provision to the purchase contract for those who were lucky enough to secure a build-slot: effectively preventing them from selling the vehicle for a period of time. Buyers, unsurprisingly, aren't fans of provisions like these, as they feel like once they buy a vehicle, they can do anything they want with it.

In the bulletin to dealers, Ford said it would allow a no-sale provision to prevent the resale of any 2022 F-150 Lightning. Ford tells dealers that it supports a no-sale provision that the customer can sign at purchase. The automaker suggests that dealers have the buyer sign an agreement saying they won't sell, offer to sell, or transfer ownership interest in the Lightning before owning the vehicle for one year.

If they sell the vehicle early, according to the agreement, the buyer has to agree that the dealership can seek injunctive relief. It's important to point out thatm with the Ford GT, Ford was the one filing suit against any Ford GT owner who tried to sell the vehicle early: it's not exactly clear if Ford would be the one seeking injunctive relief against owners who sell their Lightning early or if the dealer would be. Circumstances can change drastically in a year, after all, and blocking someone from selling property they own if they need to won't sit well with many people. With F-150 Lightning deliveries expected to begin this spring, we won't have long to wait to see if any dealers decide to take Ford up on the proposed strategy.