Ford determined to keep marketing support high for Fusion
By AMY WILSON | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS
AutoWeek | Published 06/14/06, 4:23 pm et
DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. marketers learned a tough lesson when they dialed back spending on the Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle last year. And they intend not to repeat the mistake with the Fusion.
So in a shift from its usual pattern when launching a vehicle, Ford won't trim the marketing budget for the sedan during its second year.
Marketing support for the Fusion, Ford's most promising new-car debut this decade, will be maintained at launch-year levels, said Linda Perry-Lube, car communications manager for the Ford brand.
She wouldn't disclose the budgeted amount.
Keeping that support high into the second year is a "very unusual" move for Ford, Perry-Lube said. Marketing support usually drops off significantly after a launch year. There is no typical rate of falloff, Ford said, but sometimes the support has dwindled to near zero.
But Ford has learned from past mistakes, Perry-Lube said. "Sometimes it's launch and abandon," she said. "It's from launch into nothing. That's what we really did with the Five Hundred and Freestyle."
The Five Hundred sedan and Freestyle crossover went on sale in September 2004. Marketing support began to tail off midway through their first year, Perry-Lube said.
Sales of the Freestyle have been disappointing, and Five Hundred sales have hit the low side of Ford's target.
When the Five Hundred and Freestyle debuted, Ford executives said they expected annual U.S. sales of 100,000 to 125,000 for each model. But in 2005, Ford sold 107,932 Five Hundreds and 76,739 Freestyles in the United States.
The Fusion launch has been promising. Since going on sale in late September, Ford has sold 74,381 Fusions in the United States.
The Fusion has far outpaced the early sales rate of the Five Hundred and Freestyle, with volume rising steadily each month. And Ford marketers say the Fusion is winning over more non-Ford Motor buyers than expected.
One way Ford plans to keep the Fusion in the limelight is by letting it stay in the Ford brand's focus-vehicle marketing plan for 2007.
The Fusion already is one of four nameplates on which the Ford brand is concentrating much of its advertising, incentive and other marketing money in 2006. Perry-Lube said that plan will continue next year.
Ford, she said, will continue to devote a significant chunk of the budget to nontraditional marketing.
About 30 percent of the spending on the Fusion has been devoted to Internet advertising and events.
Perry-Lube said: "The sales track is ahead of where it should be, so the mix is working."