Reporting Jeff Gilbert
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DEARBORN — (WWJ) As Ford launches its first hybrid only vehicle, it also launches a series of commercials that make direct comparison to the most popular hybrid of all, Toyota’s Prius.
“What we need to do is establish C-MAX as an alternative, get into the shopping set against Prius,” said Ford Marketing Communications Manager Matt Van Dyke.
VIDEO: Ford C-Max Ad — “Says Whee”
It’s not necessarily about taking sales away from Prius, said Van Dyke, but letting people who are considering a hybrid know that there is a new choice out there.
“We recognize that the market share leader is Prius,” he said. “They are selling in large volume. Now, we have a product alternative that is our first dedicated, stand-alone hybrid.”
VIDEO: Ford C-Max ad — “Be Great”
The C-MAX, which is now arriving in dealerships, replaces the hybrid version of the Escape. It’s now arriving in dealerships. Ford sold about a thousand C-MAX hybrids last month.
Ford is comparing the C-MAX to the larger Prius-V.
The C-MAX has a fuel economy of 47 miles per gallon, and a starting price of $25,000. It’s built at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.
The new ads are based on a cartoon from the 70’s and 80’s called “La Linea.” The goal is to compare the vehicles in a non-threatening way.
“We realized that we could actually use it to compare Prius in a fun, optimistic way,” said Toby Barlow of Ford’s advertising agency Team Detroit. “It’s a great way to be hard hitting, and also tongue -in-cheek at the same time.”
Tom Rivers, a vice president with Nielsen, says green advertising has become very popular. He told reporters that Ford has a great deal of environmental credibility.
“Their awareness is significantly greater than the average brand out there,” he said. “It’s understandable from a research effort how much effort Ford is putting behind its green messaging.”
The C-MAX is launching during an era of volatile gasoline prices. It also comes as the cost of hybrids has been coming down.
Ford’s Matt Van Dyke says there’s a large potential market, as one out of three car buyers now way they would consider a hybrid.
“The value story is really coming to life,” he said. “The payback period on the mileage, vs. the increased cost of the technology has really come down.”
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