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US:Can Idol change Ford's blue tune?

Can Idol change Ford's blue tune?

Dealers applaud new Kelly Clarkson campaign; shares hit lowest level since March 2003.

Scott Burgess / The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. plans to use America's first Idol, Kelly Clarkson, to spread the word that it's changing its tagline.

Ford is ditching the slogan "Built for the Road Ahead" after a little more than a year and replacing it with "Bold Moves," according to dealers and company officials familiar with the plans.

The automaker plans to discuss the tagline and a new advertising campaign starring Clarkson, winner of the first season of the Fox hit "American Idol," at a meeting Wednesday in Dearborn.

Ford is moving to reinvigorate its marketing efforts at a time of continued market share losses and falling stock value. Its shares fell 36 cents Monday to $6.96, a new three-year low. The company reported a $1.2 billion first-quarter loss on Monday.

Ford will continue to use its successful "Built Ford Tough" slogan for pickups. Country music star Toby Keith remains Ford's pitchman for trucks.

The "Bold Moves" slogan dovetails with the company's internal rallying cry: "Red, White and Bold."

Mark Fields, president of Ford's Americas division, has championed more aggressive styling for the automaker's car and crossover lineup. Vehicles like Ford's Five Hundred sedan have been criticized as too bland, especially when compared with the Chrysler 300. The smaller, more stylish Fusion sedan is more in line with Ford's new design direction.

Both the new slogan and the affiliation with Clarkson drew praise from dealers and analysts. Clarkson has recorded several hits since exploding on the scene with "Idol" and has cultivated a squeaky-clean image. And Ford is already a key sponsor of "American Idol," one of most popular shows on television.

"I think she is an excellent choice," said Jerry Reynolds, owner of Prestige Ford, a large dealership in suburban Dallas. "She is not controversial. She real mainstream America."

The tagline is clear and simple, with none of the clumsiness of "Built for the Road Ahead" or its short-lived predecessor, "If You Haven't Looked at a Ford Lately, Look Again."

"It's a matter of tone," said Jim Sanfilippo, a senior industry analyst with Automotive Marketing Con******ts Inc. "Be bold, that also means to take a risk."

Ford plans to use the "Bold Moves" slogan as a tie-in to offers it will roll out to customers in the next couple months.

Reynolds said dealers have been pleased to see Ford making aggressive marketing moves without waiting for General Motors Corp. to act first and then reacting.

"They're making these plans well in advance without regard to what GM is doing," he said. "Tell you what, that is refreshing and an about-face from what we saw this time last year."

Analysts, though, are still awaiting an about-face for Ford's U.S. sales. Bank of America analyst Ron Tadross cut his target price on Ford's shares from $7 to $6 and said he expects Ford's U.S. market share to drop to 17.2 percent this year from 18.6 percent in 2005 as it faces stiff competition from GM and other rivals.

Jonathan Steinmetz, an auto analyst for Morgan Stanley, said Ford needs to accelerate its cost-cutting efforts as competitors launch new products such as the Toyota Tundra.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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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