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Ford Fusion Hybrid Ads Going For Halo

Posted by: David Kiley on March 3, 2009

Ford finally has an aspirational passenger car besides the Mustang. It’s the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Ford breaks advertising for the new hybrid sedan today on American Idol. The focus of the ads, naturally, is the car’s 41 mpg city fuel economy. According to Ford officials, the fact that the car tops 40 mpg was a huge hot button with shoppers in focus groups and one on one interviews.

It’s a good month for Ford. 70% of its vehicles overall were recommended by Consumer Reports in its annual shopping guide, compared with just 19% for GM and zip for Chrysler.

Honda and Toyota scored above 90%. But in the whole scheme of things, 70% is quite good given Ford’s large fleet. And it is heartening to know that Ford CEO Alan Mulally actually has a target of scoring 100% by 2011. Believe it or not, Ford hadn’t had that target before CEO Alan Mulally arrived in 2006.

Though Ford is as desperate as anyone to sell vehicles, it is being realistic about sales potential in the near-term.

Its new trio of 30-second spots, from WPP’s JWT Team Detroit, is aimed at what the “upper funnel,”—potential buyers down the road. The ads carry the theme “We speak car.”

Matt Van Dyke, Ford’s director-marketing communications, said 40% of Americans are still unaware of the brand, even though the midsize sedan has been on the market since 2005.

The only problem is that hybrids cost a premium over non hybrids—in the case of Fusion, it’s about $3,200—at a time when gas is about $2.20 a gallon or less. Hybrid sales have cooled off since gas prices came down from highs last summer.

There is an idea at team Detroit that by playing up the hybrid, and generating buzz around it, it will help overall sales of the Fusion.
The stakes are high for Ford. The mid-sized segment is about 15% of total sales these days, which is the second biggest segment in the marketplace.

Fusion has been very much a trailer to the Honda Accord and Toyota sales Camry juggernauts. Ford would like to change that, though it has no illusions about passing those models.

Having driven the 2010 Fusion Hybrid, I can attest to the fact that the car can stand tire to tire with Honda and Toyota and get you better fuel economy than either one by a wide margin.

Now, if the Recession would lift, and gas prices go back to $4.00, the Fusion Hybrid would be perfectly timed.

Reader Comments

It's not high gas prices.

March 4, 2009 2:26 PM

Combined milage is about 38.5, still great.

Prius sales this month are down 22% less than Ford F-series truck sales, year over year, despite rock bottom gas prices. The Fusion Hybrid doesn't need gas prices at $4 to be a hit - it does require proper marketing, robust supply availability to retail consumers and above average service support and product quality.

Buyers of well built, economical and practical hybrids go for overall value, the ability to moderate the effects of volatile gasoline prices (regardless of absolute price, hybrids offer fuel savings), adequate mainstream vehicle operation, the ability to reduce dependence on foreign oil and stop sending our fuel dollars overseas where they do our domestic economy no good, enhanced national secutiry and a host of other preferences. Remind us again when the payback occurs on power windows, leather seats and sunroofs?

Not to get too technical, the article also confuses fixed and marginal costs. Once you have purchased a hybrid, the hybrid system is a sunk cost and has no effect on marginal costs, what you pay at the pump per mile traveled, always less with higher mpg, which is what really matters to your weekly fuel budget.


March 4, 2009 3:41 PM

Okay, I want to help stimulate the economy, at the same time help out our auto industry, and oh by the way save money in the process.

My answer if I buy a Ford Fusion Hybrid I get it all. First I help the only one of the big three not asking me to give them my tax dollars. Second I do my small bit for the environment. Third I get the most economical hybrid available (MSRP $19,270) at 41 MPG. Fourth I get a tax credit on the sales Tax (around $1400). Fifth and finally If I buy by 31 March 2009, I get a $3400 Hybrid car Credit.

Here’s the problem, you just can’t do it. The car is not available, dealers won’t even give you an estimate on when it will be. What they do say is forget about 31 March.

Okay so lets try another one, love the look of the Mazda Tribute Hybrid. Sorry only available in California.

How about the Ford Escape it hits the mark although a lot more expensive (MSRP $39,000 mileage Mpg 25). After a lengthy search I actually find one near Charlotte…where I can pick it up for $54,000.

Hmmm guess it isn’t going to happen. Frankly I would really like it to be a Ford or if not a company where Ford holds a 40% stake. The other two big three took the government handout and still may fail.
Well where do I go now?

How's this for false advertising, spent 30 minutes on line with Ford marketing the confirmed NO WAY to get the $3400 Tax Credit...the vehicle is not available untill June (maybe.

From Kiley [Your info didn't look right to me, so I checked around, and here is what I get from Ford]:

Thanks for your interest in the all-new 2010 Fusion Hybrid and your recognition of its best-in-class fuel economy achievement of 41mpg in city driving. Demand is already strong for the vehicle and we're getting asked this question by many people. But, first, I want to clarify the base pricing of the Fusion Hybrid, which is $27,995 (including D&D). The price that you referenced ($19,995 corrected to include D&D) is the Fusion S model featuring a 4-cylinder engine and manual transmission. The good news is that the Fusion S with the automatic transmission ($20,870 including D&D) is also best-in-class for fuel economy in its segment achieving 34mpg on the highway. So, either way, Fusion is the most fuel-efficient sedan in America.

In regards to the tax credit, we advise that you consult directly with a tax advisor regarding the qualification. The order bank is open and we've guaranteed that all Fusion Hybrid retail orders placed by 3/31 will get scheduled with priority. Based on our interpretation of the tax code, that will allow for qualification of the $3400 tax credit, no matter the ultimate delivery date of your vehicle. And, even after 3/31, the Fusion Hybrid will still qualify for the tax credit at the level of $1700.

And, finally, the Escape Hybrid is America's most fuel efficient SUV delivering 34mpg in the city and 31mpg on the highway. It is priced at $30,370 for the FWD model. It still qualifies for a $3000 tax credit."

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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