Ford Motor Co. has fired the first round in what could be a new auto incentives war: 4.9 percent financing programs on four models or cash rebates of about $750.

Ford also announced huge rebates of up to $3,000 for some 1988-model cars.Ford said it is offering the 4.9 percent rate on 24-month loans on its 1989 Ford Escort and Festiva small cars, Mercury Tracer subcompact and the Ford Ranger small truck.

As an alternative, buyers can choose cash rebates of $300 and $400 on Festiva models, $500 off on Escort, $750 off on Tracer and $500 to $750 off Ranger truck models.

Ford also said it would offer big rebates on leftover 1988 cars. The largest incentive, $3,000, is being offered on the Merkur XR4Ti model, discontinued last year.

Other big rebates on last year's models include $2,000 off on 1988 Scorpio models, $1,000 off on 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe and Mercury Cougar XR7, and $600 off on other 1988 Thunderbird and Cougar models. Ford recently brought out restyled versions of the two autos.

The Ford rebate and incentive offers run through March 2. Ford's previous incentive offer was scheduled to expire Thursday.