A car dealership in Alabama was told by the Ford Motor Company to cease a successful sales promotion, which offered customers an American flag, a bible and a 12-gauge shotgun with the purchase of a new or used vehicle.
The promo, which combined various Americana elements, was intended for local customers in the region and slated to run through the end of July.
“We were catering to our local community,” said Chatom general manager Colin Ward. “With dove (hunting) season around the corner, the Fourth of July is the American flag, so we thought we’d combine both.”
General sales manager Koby Palmer agreed.
“We live in a small town of 1,200 people,” Palmer said. “It’s a very small, rural area. They lean on their religious beliefs, their pride in America and they love to hunt.”
Customers weren’t exactly walking out with shotguns and new rides; they were handed gift certificates to use at nearby or participating firearms dealers.
The promotion proved to be highly effective, and within a few days Chatom Ford sold five vehicles.
“It’s been running for three business days and we sold five cars,” Palmer said. “In a small town, business is booming.”
But after a Facebook ad for the sale titled “God, guns and freedom” went viral, the dealership was soon inundated with potential buyers from across the globe.
To some, the ad was controversial, but Ward says he didn’t mean to offend anyone and even offered a customer an Amazon gift card to buy “a different kind of flag.”
“If you want a Torah, I’ll buy you a Torah. If you want a Koran, that’s fine. I don’t discriminate against anyone,” the businessman said, adding the promo was non-political. “We just didn’t have that on hand because 90% of our customers here are Southern Baptist.”
Detroit Free Press reports: “Chatom sold a used Ram pickup to a customer in New York state, Ward said. He has received calls from Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, Canada and Europe, he said.”
The sale’s popularity overwhelmed Chatom’s three salespeople, and even Spanish-speaking customers were looking to buy.
“I had to look around and my service manager speaks Spanish,” Ward claimed. “So I turned him into a salesperson today.”
Unfortunately, the sale was so good that it got the attention of Ford. The company demanded the dealership cease and desist the offer in light of a shooting that took place at a Ford dealership in California, in which a disgruntled or former employee shot two workers before turning the gun on himself.
“So it’s done. They’ve ended our promotion. I’m very disappointed,” Ward told reporters Wednesday. “Ford said we can fulfill our commitments to the customers that we’ve made up till now, but we have to cease it going forward.”
Now, Chatom Ford has altered the deal – instead of a shotgun, customers get a $200 gift certificate “to use where ever you want on whatever you want.”
“It’s your right,” Palmer says in an updated ad.
A Ford spokesman says they’re OK with Chatom Ford’s new promo.
“This is a local promotion. It is not something Ford developed and the dealers are independent businesses,” a Ford rep stated. “But if a dealership is (altering the promotion) in light of the tragedy, that seems appropriate.”