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General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet is on the comeback trail, and that's adding spice to its traditional rivalry with Ford Motor Co.'s Ford division.

While Ford is preparing a reported $100 million marketing introduction to begin later this month for the redesigned Taurus, Chevy is gearing up an estimated $60 million counterattack with a marketing push for its own midsize sedan, Lumina.

Chevy marketing executives see a chance to capitalize on Ford's planned price increases, as well as pick up buyers who may be turned off by the Taurus' radical restyling.

Ford has announced an $18,600 pre-introductory base sticker price for the new Taurus vs. the Lumina's $16,355. The 1995 Taurus carries a base price of $17,585 and comes with a $2,000 rebate.

"That's a $3,000 [difference in] transactional price from one year to the next," said Steve McAvoy, Chevrolet's marketing manager-passenger cars.

According to Automotive News, Lumina sales were 141,055 units through August, up 143% from the same period in 1994, when Chevy had a slow production startup for a redesigned model. Ford Taurus sales were 252,775 units. "We're trying to go beyond [ads focusing on features and benefits] ..... and establish the idea that more Americans trust Chevrolet to enhance the quality of their life," said Bill Ludwig, executive creative director at Chevy agency Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich.

Chevrolet's 1996 advertising illustrates another GM trend, to build more distinct identities for individual models.

Buick division's 1996 TV advertising from McCann Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich., for instance, positions the Riviera as an enjoyable escape, showing a boy in a kidsize car while posing the question, "When was the last time you had this much fun in a car?" Park Avenue, meanwhile, is positioned as an earned reward.

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