Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Jennifer and the Fusion

Forbes has an interesting article concerning the upcoming Ford Fusion, and "Jennifer", a fictional being who is supposed to represent your generic car buyer. I'm always skeptical of marketing schemes. I know that it is very possible to sell something with a clever ad campaign, witness milk and "Got Milk?". But in the auto industry I just can't remember the last time an ad campaign brought a lackluster car to successful sales. It's always been integral to the car itself whether it would be a success or not.

There was something else in this article that caught my eye:

Ford doesn't want to make [the Ford 500] mistake again with the Fusion. Its original--and safe--design mimicked the leaders in the midsize car segment, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. But in focus groups during the summer and fall of 2002 the car drew ho-hums from consumers. Around the same time, Ford designers finished their work on a striking new concept car, the Ford 427, that was being prepared for the 2003 auto show circuit. Insiders loved it, so in December Ford officials did the unthinkable: At the last minute they ripped up the Fusion's design. Its bland front end was ditched and replaced with the 427's signature three-bar chrome grille.

Outside of pricing for materials, if a concept car is popular and looks good, why not just copy it? Why tone it down? Ford is realizing that its biggest competitors, Toyota and Honda, have cornered the market of people who are not into cars and are looking for merely a transport machine that is reliable. The people who are left are those drawn to design who will only reluctantly purchase an Accord or a Camry. Ford has made the correct decision with the Fusion by allowing the design to bold and similar to the original concept.

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