Does this scenario sound all too irritatingly familiar?

A dealership customer turns his vehicle in at the end of the lease. There's excess wear and use. The dealership charges the customer extra for that. It's a legitimate charge, but the customer gets miffed - and takes his future business elsewhere.

It can be a cost of doing business, but it's a hassle that can be avoided with a new program launched by Ford Credit.

To help protect consumers against unexpected end-of-lease charges, Ford Credit introduces WearCare, an enhancement to Ford Credit's Red Carpet Lease.

It's one of the first optional coverage programs offered by a major automaker to reduce customer liability for potential excess wear and use charges at lease-end.

Available for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury leases written after June 24, 1999, WearCare provides for a waiver of up to $2,500 in chargeable damages related to excess vehicle wear and use.

The WearCare program gives Ford Credit customers greater control over potential lease-end charges for vehicle wear and tear that may occur beyond normal everyday use, That includes dents, scratches, paint damage, carpet stains and tire wear.

"We developed WearCare based on input from our customers, some of whom say they'd like greater assurance that they will be protected from unexpected end-of-lease charges related to bumps and scratches on the leased vehicle, says Tim Gates, Red Carpet lease manager.

He adds, "Our goal at Ford Credit is to make the Red Lease Experience as simple, straight-forward and worry free as possible. Because WearCare is optional, this new program provides an added layer of flexibility for customers who want greater peace of mind."

The benefits are not limited to customers. In fact, according to Mr. Gates, negotiating over end-of-lease charges can be equally frustrating for the more than 5,000 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealers who offer the Red Carpet Lease Program.

"WearCare will make the lease-end process run very smoothly for both dealers and customers, virtually eliminating any possible points of contention that might prevent a customer from buying or leasing another vehicle," says Mr. Gates. "Because WearCare was designed with customer satisfaction in mind, dealers appreciate the added value this brings to their customer's lease experience."

WearCare is an optional program available for approximately $8-$12 per month on 24-36-month leases. There is no lessee deductible, and WearCare may be canceled by the customer at any time during the original term of the lease.

Since its introduction in late July, more than 1,000 Ford Lincoln and Mercury dealers have signed up.

"The early success of the WearCare program is a testament to our philosophy of continually responding to customer needs and achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction," says Mr. Gates.

He cites Ford Credit since 1996 earning five J. D. Power & Associates' awards for customer satisfaction.

Growth of 10%-12% a year is projected for the newly created DaimlerChrysler Financial Services. It's a joining of the old Chrysler Financial Corp. and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.

Dr. Carlos Mangold, chairman and CEO of Daimler-Benz Financial Services, which is headquartered in Berlin, Germany, says the annual growth target is being maintained for 1999 and beyond despite a slowdown in leasing of luxury cars.

"The market is taking a more cautious look at residual values on luxury cars," he told a press conference, "but we are pressing ahead with expansion plans covering all segments of the automotive market, including our united North American affiliates, Chrysler Financial and Mercedes Benz Credit."

The new company is the world's fourth largest non-bank financial services firm, says Dr. Mangold.

It has an $81 billion portfolio. Larger are the financial arms of General Electric, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

Darrell L. Davis, former chairman and CEO of Chrysler Financial, is chairman and CEO of DaimlerChrysler Financial Services, North America.