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U.S.:Ford counting on GT supercar to help change its image

By JEAN HALLIDAY | Advertising Age

The Ford GT won't hit showrooms until summer, but Ford Motor Co. already is getting marketing mileage from the supercar.

The 500-hp, street-legal car won't be a moneymaker. Ford plans to produce only 3,500 of the $139,995 GTs over two model years for the U.S. market.

"We don't expect to lose money on GT," CEO Bill Ford told Automotive News last year, "but frankly, none of us are going to retire on GT, either."

Instead, the car's purpose is to "raise the image of all our other products," says Martin Collins, Ford Division general marketing manager.

That's why the automaker made a seemingly inefficient media buy for a low-volume car, advertising the GT with a 60-second spot in the second quarter of the Super Bowl. On average, 30 seconds of advertising time during this year's NFL championship game cost a record $2.25 million.

In the spot, the car careens around 15 turns on a track and hits speeds over 140 mph as the voice-over asks: "In what gear do you realize that a car is everything it is supposed to be? In what gear do you know nothing can catch you? In what gear do you know it is the one?"

Print ads for the GT carry the tag line: "The pace car for an entire company."

The car can provide "internal morale and bragging rights within the company," says Jeff Brodoski, a J.D. Power and Associates analyst.

The sports car's return marks the start of a slew of new models from Ford Motor, which is calling 2004 "the year of the car." Ford Division's car sales slipped in recent years after it shifted its focus to pickups and SUVs.

The company will launch the updated Focus this spring, the Five Hundred sedan this summer to replace the Taurus and the redesigned 2005 Mustang this fall.

Although the GT is likely to generate traffic at dealerships, it won't necessarily lead to higher sales of other Ford vehicles.

Art Spinella, vice president of the auto con******cy CNW Marketing/Research Inc. in Bandon, Ore., says the GT doesn't match generally conservative, loyal Ford buyers "because performance isn't typically what they're looking for."

He says the best halo cars are used as building blocks for a brand and its positioning.

In the mid-1960s, Henry Ford II, then chairman of Ford Motor, ordered development of the original GT to compete against Ferrari. The Ford GT shook the racing world when it won the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1966, 1967 and 1968.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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