FORD TRUCKS STEER BACK TO GUY APPEAL

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Full-size pickup trucks are still a guy thing.

Automakers' marketing efforts in recent years have recognized the growing influence of women in the purchases of cars, minivans and sport-utility vehicles. But men make up 93% of the buyers of Ford Motor Co.'s F-Series pickups, now in its 14th year as the best-selling car or truck in the U.S.

So it's not surprising that Ford division and J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit, will revive the "Built Ford tough" theme line and will use the quintessential male holiday, the Super Bowl, to introduce the redesigned 1997 F-150 pickup. Ford has used "The best never rest" as its truck ad theme the past three years, emphasizing quality and sales leadership rather than ruggedness.

The upcoming campaign will assure truck buyers the new pickup is just as rugged as ever, despite more aerodynamic lines and carlike features like standard dual airbags and optional leather seats, said Dewey Holland, F-Series marketing plans manager at Ford.

In part because some longtime owners may resist the new design, Ford is planning an unusual rollout. Beginning in January, dealers will sell the redesigned 1997 F-150 along older-style 1996 models through August.

"Pickup truck buyers tend to be very conservative" and some will wait until the new truck has proven itself in the market, Mr. Holland said.

The dual truck strategy also means Ford can phase in production at four assembly plants, instead of shutting them all down at the same time.

Through October, Ford had sold 579,687 F-Series pickups this year, according to Automotive News. That made it the No. 1 seller with a comfortable lead over General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet C/K pickup, second at 436,682 units.

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