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$35 MIL START FOR FORD'S NEW SUV

By Published on .

Ford Motor Co. is preparing an estimated $35 million assault for the 1997 Ford Expedition-its new, full-size sport-utility vehicle designed to chase General Motors Corp.'s hot models.

The media plan includes TV, magazines, outdoor, direct mail and the World Wide Web, say Ford dealers, who were told about the introductory campaign at annual dealer meetings in San Francisco just concluded.

Like the smaller Ford Explorer, the new vehicle will have an Eddie Bauer-badged model with different trim, and dealers will offer Eddie Bauer Expedition clothing and outdoor gear (AA, July 15). Expedition replaces the Ford Bronco.

SPORT-UTE ON WEB

Some 85,000 Bronco owners were sent mailings directing them to new Expedition pages on Ford's Web site (http://www.ford.com); they went up Aug. 30.

Media advertising breaks Sept. 29, with a pair of 30-second spots shot in Alaska positioning the Expedition as a go-anywhere, do-anything SUV.

One spot shows skiers hopping out of a helicopter onto a mountain top, only to schuss by a couple getting out of an Expedition. The Expedition man says, "I can't believe how crowded it's getting out here."In the other spot, two males in a small plane tease a third friend because he won't fly to their remote fishing spot in the mountains. But the third friend beats his buddies to the lake in his Expedition, asking them if they liked the in-flight film. Both spots were shot in Alaska.

Ford declined to comment on the launch campaign; it The division will reveal details at a press conference in mid-September.GM DOMINATESGM. has dominated the jumbo large-size SUV category with its Chevrolet and GMC Suburban, Chevy Tahoe GMC Suburban and GMC Yukon, Expedition's main rivals. and the Suburban, offered by both Chevy and GMC.add to ford expedition story

do you want to delete my last original graf & start with this? Also, delete pricing info, which i address here

The Expedition will heat up the competition in the lucrative large SUV segment. General Motors has dominated it with its twin Chevrolet and GMC Suburban models, Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon - all key rivals for Expedition. Chrylser Corp. doesn't have an entry in the category. It is considering an upscale, full-size sport ute and may bring back the Jeep Grand Wagonneer, which last rolled off the production line four years ago.

GM's production in the segment hasn't kept up with demand, notes David Kalmus, VP at Dohring Co., a market researcher.GM sold a combined total of 219,000 for the big SUVs last year, according to Automotive News, a sister publication of Ad Age. Through July, GM sold nearly 166,400. Ford has priced its SUV competitively. The price for a four-wheel-drive model is around $30,570 - $1,600 less than a comprable Chevy Tahoe.

Ohio Chevy dealer Joe Brown said he's not worried about Expedition's launch price. "Price advantages are never a permanent thing," he said. "The prices they bring them out at are test balloons."

Will GM cut prices or offer incentives to stay competitive?"I'm sure we will," said Joe Brown, an Ohio Chevy dealer.

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