Ford Almost Edges Out GM With Single Model, $179 Million Spending

General Motors Divides Dollars Among Three Crossover Vehicles While Rival Zeroes in on One

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DETROIT ( -- Talk about an edge.

With a single model, Ford Motor Co. came close to outselling a trio of General Motors rivals in the hot crossover-vehicle segment -- and it did so by outspending all three.
Ford backed the Edge with $179 million in U.S. measured media in the first seven months of 2007.
Ford backed the Edge with $179 million in U.S. measured media in the first seven months of 2007.

The Ford Edge last year came in just 6,600 units shy of GM's tally of nearly 137,000 for the GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Buick Enclave combined. "GM, with three different models, is diluting their marketing dollar," said Kevin Tynan, auto analyst at Argus Research. With one model, he said, Ford could spend more.

And it did. Data from TNS Media Intelligence show Ford backed the Edge with $179 million in U.S. measured media in the first seven months of 2007 compared with $56 million for the GMC Acadia, $46 million for GM's Buick Enclave and $25 million for the Saturn Outlook.

Single-vehicle digital campaign
Barry Engle oversaw the introduction of the crucial new model as general marketing manager of the Ford Division. Mr. Engle, 44, who was moved earlier this month to president of Ford of Canada, kicked off the model's launch via product integration on ABC's "Extreme Home Makeover" and then moved the blitz online.

Ford said the Edge launch marked its biggest commitment for a single model in digital media, although it declined to give specifics. JWT Team Detroit, Dearborn, Mich., handled the general-market push while Wunderman Team Detroit is the digital agency. Not only that, but Dave Sanabria, marketing-communications manager, called the Edge launch "one of our largest and most integrated marketing campaigns ever."

Ford pulled out all the stops, with separate campaigns for the Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American markets from Zubi Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla.; UniWorld Group, New York; and PanCom International, Los Angeles, respectively.

The Edge also was integrated into "American Idol," where the automaker ran commercials from famed playwright and feature-film director David Mamet. His two spots show two Ford Edge drivers parked parallel to one another, touting the crossover as "quieter than a Lexus" or "quicker than a BMW."

Tom Libby, senior director of auto consultant Power Information Network, said he believes Edge reeled in loyal buyers who defected from the bigger, truck-based Ford Explorer and large Freestar minivan.

Detroit win
s He also said it's unfair to compare GM's entries since they aren't mass-market brands like Ford; he noted the Buick Enclave has performed particularly well. PIN data show that, among the nearly 300 models sold in the U.S. during the last four months of 2007, including two in which it was tied with Toyota's Prius, the Enclave spent the least number of days on dealer lots before being sold. Mr. Libby said that marks the first time in the five years he's been measuring the stat that a Detroit model was tops for more than two consecutive months.

Maria Rohrer, Buick's marketing director, said GM sold nearly 30,000 Enclaves in the seven months it was on sale last year, 35% more than projected. And 43% of Enclave buyers are new to GM. Buick, which now sells just three models as part of a planned lineup paring, is "exactly where we expected to be in overall sales," Ms. Rohrer said.

Mr. Libby said the Saturn Outlook crossover hasn't done as well as its Buick sibling, although GM sold almost 35,000 Outlooks last year.

A Saturn spokesman said the marketer didn't do much with the Outlook launch, since its big focus last year was on the all-new Aura model and redone Vue. "With our limited budgets, we have to pick and choose," the spokesman said. Outlook was one of five models in a broad-branding TV spot last summer that marked the first work from Deutsch, Los Angeles, on Saturn and introduced the "Rethink American" tag.

Doug Scott, senior VP of consultant GfK Automotive, said to stay tuned for the arrival of GM's fourth crossover derivative, the Chevrolet Traverse, which should go head-to-head with Edge but could very likely cannibalize its siblings.
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