Practically every automaker who sells vehicles in the U.S. offers some kind of military rebates for active or retired service members. At first glance this seems noble, but what most buyers don’t know is that these programs often exclude the brand’s most desirable vehicles.
Recently, I was helping an active duty soldier who was deployed overseas and wanted to buy a Ford Focus RS. As we all know, these cars are not easy to score deals on. Many of them are being sold with dealer markups, and while it is possible to avoid that, it takes a bit of work.
I was fortunate enough to be contacted by a dealer in California who not only had a few RS models in stock but was willing to sell them at a discount under the MSRP. Naturally, my customer was pretty excited about getting Ford’s hottest hatch for a killer deal, but then he remembered that most brands offer some additional cash for those that are serving, so he asked me if he could take advantage of a military rebate as well.
It turns out, according to Ford’s website, he can’t. Ford excluded the RS models among other more desirable cars from their military program.
And Ford isn’t the only one that puts restrictions on the military rebates. Want to get yourself a badass ATS-V or a fancy CT6 from for all your hard earned service money? Too bad, General Motors excludes all Cadillac models. The list below shows every GM model that is included, and highlights some of the exclusions.
Fiat Chrysler is no better, all SRT products including the Hellcat are excluded. I could be generalizing a bit, but I bet a good deal of our gearhead service members love some burnouts, yet Dodge refuses to offer a small rebate on their most wanted muscle cars.
Now, why would the military rebate apply to some cars and not others? The reason is simple: those high demand specialty models often marketed to enthusiasts are going to sell anyway. Ford isn’t going to have any trouble selling a Shelby GT350R, but convincing someone to get a Fusion over a Malibu requires some cash on the hood.
The problem is when everyone does the rebate, it doesn’t move the needle. A service member is going to get the same relative discount either way. Therefore, neither brand gets a market advantage on any run of the mill model. In other words, “We appreciate your sacrifice, but not enough to give you a few bucks on that Focus RS you were going to buy anyway.”
So how do we make a military rebate not suck? Well, for starters the manufacturers can get rid of the exclusions, because let’s face it, if as a brand you are serious about rewarding our men and women who serve, it shouldn’t matter what car they buy. That incentive should apply across the board. Anything less than that is just a half-assed attempt to gain some type of market advantage on cars that aren’t so easy to sell.
If the automakers won’t do it, the dealers should step up instead. I can’t tell you how many dealer ads I’ve seen pledging their support to our men and women in uniform promising “great deals!” Here’s their chance to put your money where their mouth is.
Dealers, if an active or retired service member wants a cool car and the automaker excludes them from the rebate, give them the damn discount anyway. An extra few hundred bucks is not going to make your break your bottom line, but it will go a long way in sending a message to your local community that your commitment to treating your military customers goes beyond your marketing materials.