In renewing its Ford dealer Blue Oval awards program, Ford will avoid the two-tier issue that riled many dealers in 2000 when the certification initiative got under way.

The new program, effective next April, will reward all Ford dealers — certified or uncertified — with sales volume-related bonuses.

The existing program pays only certified dealers about $330 per vehicle, or 1% of base sticker price per vehicle.

Ford agreed to the bonus cutback and to end the two-tier system as a condition for extending the Blue Oval program. It was to have been scrapped entirely next year.

The two-tier concept led to a federal district court suit, sponsored by the Ford Dealers Alliance in Newark, NJ. The suit alleged that paying bonuses to a certified group of dealers while denying bonuses to an uncertified group created an illegal rewards system.

A Ford dealer in Liberty, NC, also filed a discrimination complaint against the auto maker, charging that obtaining Blue Oval certification cost too much. The North Carolina Automobile Dealers Assn. endorsed her suit.

Under the new Blue Oval plan, Ford will return to dealers a 1 percentage point sum in the dealer discount, which was deducted in 2000 to offset the cost of the program.

In addition, Ford will contribute 0.25% of sticker prices to dealer advertising funds.

Ford will pay certified dealers a “modest” lump sum quarterly for employee recognition awards and reduce customer satisfaction surveys from four pages to two.

Blue Oval bonuses, based on monthly sales targets, will amount to $75 per unit for meeting 75% of year-ago sales; $100 for 100%, and $125 for 110%. Payments will continue on a quarterly basis.

Similar Lincoln Mercury dealer reward programs will also be continued, with Lincoln dealers eligible for added sums in line with other luxury brands.