Ford GT Legal Wrangles

When you buy a car, you can sell it any time you want, even if you still owe money on the loan. That’s the American way, right? Not if it’s a 2017 Ford GT or a few other limited edition supercars.

TV wrestler Jon Cena is among those who fell into a legal tussle with Ford over selling his new Ford GT before the supposed two-year waiting period. Ferrari has put restrictions on some of its limited editions as well.

The troubles date back to April 2017, when Ford took applications for the first 500 of its newest flagship supercar. The new GT is a two-seat sports car that puts out about 647 hp with a top speed of 216 mph. Ford planned to build only 1,000 units over a few years.

To get on the list, buyers had to promise they would hold the car for 24 months before selling it. Ford didn’t want flippers to tarnish the brand image of their halo car with tawdry Internet deals. Cena paid $463,375.50 for the car – in two installments – and picked up his car at a Tampa dealership in September 2017. Then in October, he sold the car to a dealer in Chicago. However, Cena said he wasn’t informed by the first dealer about the 24-month waiting period. Ford has since updated the sales contract for the Ford GT so the buyer has to explicitly agree to the condition.

Ford quickly filed suit, seeking $75,000 in damages or to repurchase the car for the original price. In the lawsuit, Ford said the company “has lost the ability to control the reputation of its brand, the integrity of the Program and selection process, and who will receive a Ford GT in relation to the Program.”

Full terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but John Cena made a public apology to Ford and warned other GT owners not to flip their cars before their 24-month period expired. A monetary settlement to Ford was donated to charity.

In May 2018, a Ford GT, No. 48 in the production run, showed up on the docket for Mecum Auction. Ford sued the auction house as well as the dealer and the original owner. The GT with silver-with-black racing stripes sold for $1.7 million, about three times the base MSRP. After the auction Ford settled its suit against Mecum. Again, the full terms were undisclosed, but Mecum Auctions made a donation to a Ford Motor Company charity, and agreed not to sell any more GTs under the two-year restriction.

The 24-month clock is getting close to running out on some of the earliest GT sales, so expect more to hit the resale market soon. Ford hasn’t been exactly forthcoming on how many GTs were actually produced, so the end of the sale ban could bring some more cars to light.

Ford isn’t the only carmaker to crack down on car flippers. Part of the goal is to keep the high-end cars unique, for a small group of brand ambassadors who live the lifestyle. Another part of the goal is to reserve the right for exorbitant sticker shock prices for the dealers.

Ferrari used a similar contract for its limited-edition 550 Barchetta back in 2001, and as well as the 2015 LaFerrari. For that supercar, dealers submitted names of their best customers and Ferrari chose who received the car.

One noted collector sued Ferrari for being left off the list for the 2017 Aptera convertible model. Keep in mind applicants were required to have at minimum five other Ferraris to even be considered for the list. Ferrari has allowed a few Apteras to be sold at auction to raise money for charities, such as one benefitting victims of an earthquake in Italy.

You could say this is all rich people problems, and you’d be right. But look around, there are more and more restrictions on what you can do with your own stuff these days – you can lose access to movies and music you thought you owned because somebody’s contract changed. Apple is famous for removing movies and TV shows from iTunes and offering a small gift card in return. While nobody likes to do it, maybe the best advice is to read your sales contract and user agreements so you know what you’re getting into.

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