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Ford Motor Co. is staying ahead of the pack when it comes to using leasing as a marketing tool.

Ford ran a page ad in the July 6 USA Today trumpeting the new simplified contract being used for its Red Carpet Lease programs. The ad, created by Wunderman Cato Johnson, Detroit, is headlined, "Introducing a lease written in a whole new language. Plain English."

Wunderman not only created the ad but also helped develop the contract form itself, said Mike Wagner, consumer lease manager for Ford Credit. Wunderman is agency for a multidivisional team that oversees Ford's leasing programs.

According to the automaker, the new contract has about 1,000 fewer words, or 31% fewer than its old form. In addition, the new one discloses the capitalized cost of the vehicle being leased, a figure comparable to sales price.

Ford's actions, combined with a review of lease contracts now under way by the Federal Reserve Board, will force other automakers to produce more consumer-friendly contracts, said Art Spinella, VP-general manager of CNW Marketing/Research, a Brandon, Ore.-based consultancy.

CNW conducted focus groups that showed fuller disclosure and simplified terminology led more consumers to consider leasing.

"This is a clear advantage to Ford, which regards leasing as part of an overall marketing effort to increase owner loyalty," Mr. Spinella said.

For Ford, 33.5% of personal-use cars and 28% of personal-use trucks are leased, Mr. Spinella said, compared with 28.9% of personal-use cars and 21.4% of personal-use trucks for the whole industry.

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