NAIAS Press Release Strategies: Quantity vs. Quality

It’s time for the Auto Show in Detroit, which means our email server here is hotter than a Chrysler turbocharged four cylinder engine with a plugged radiator. It seems that every five minutes a new press release from an automaker hits the screen.

When it comes to PR, companies take approaches that are as different as pralines and lint. While some go for a targeted, minimalist effort, others take a “quantity over quality” strategy. And this PR blitzkrieg is exactly what Ford chose.

The Ford brand alone sent out nine press releases on Saturday night. It’s like the PR and marketing teams figured that by shooting out enough press releases, the media and financial analysts will somehow forget the Blue Oval’s woes.

Among Ford’s “important” news:

  • “FORD ADDS GLASS ROOF OPTION TO MUSTANG LINEUP, MEETING CUSTOMER DESIRE FOR MORE NATURAL LIGHT.” (Correct us if we’re wrong, but hasn’t the Mustang been available as a convertible for over twenty years?)
  • “NEW 2009 FORD F-150: MOST CAPABLE” (Which we can only assume is “most capable being bought by consumers”, especially compared to the Focus, or even a glass-roofed Mustang.)
  • “NEW 2009 FORD F-150: MOST CHOICE” (Evidently, putting out two releases on the same model is Ford’s tactic du jour. This one simply states that the Ford F-150 will offer three cab styles, four box options and seven unique trim levels for 35 different configurations. We can hear Ford’s television ads already: “F-150 for Pro-Choice Americans.”
  • “EXPLORER AMERICA CONCEPT HIGHLIGHTS FORD’S VEHICLE SUSTAINABILITY STRATEGY” (We were surprised to see that “not killing drivers with cheap suspension, top-heavy bodies and OEM tires prone to separating” was not included, only better fuel economy.)
  • “FORD REVEALS SMALL-CAR VISION FOR NORTH AMERICA” (All we know is that it involves a model called the Verve…and we’re guessing the rest of the vision includes praying to any god that will listen that people buy three or four hundred thousand of them.)

Then there are some other releases about the Sync feature (which responds to driver commands, with the exception of “make my Ford a Toyota.”) And as we were writing this section, Ford sent us another press release indicating that the Edge will go on sale in Brazil.

So to summarize Ford’s main message seems to be business as usual – lots of product teams going nuts, but nobody seems to be on the same page.

The Ford brand’s machine gun PR approach is also being used by Mazda, which sent seven press releases. Three were to announce that there will be three concepts at the show (but two releases covered single concepts, while the additional release discussed one in another release with the RX8 concept.) The last release we got from Mazda was to indicate that the Mazda CX-9 won the 2008 North American Truck of the Year Award, which would seem important enough to reduce the other messages coming from the company to elevate the impact of this one.

Whereas it seems Ford did everything wrong, GM did it right. Two releases:

  • General Motors North American International Auto Show Vehicles Are Driven By Design, Technology And Lower Environmental Impact

  • Chevrolet Malibu named 2008 North American Car of the Year

    No confusion here. Good job GM!

    Here are some other NAIAS press releases from this week:

    • “AUDI R8 V12 TDI CONCEPT: DETROIT 2008 Audi is presenting a revolution in the top class at the Detroit Auto Show 2008 – the first 12-cylinder diesel engine in a high-performance roadgoing sports car. The V12 TDI with a displacement of six liters powers a concept car based on the Audi R8. This unit generates a huge 500 hp and 1,000 Newton-meters (737.56 lb-ft) of torque.” (24 mpg is projected)
    • “LINCOLN UNVEILS ULTIMATE TOURING VEHICLE CONCEPT; PREMIUM UTILITY FEATURES ELEGANCE, SPACE, EFFICIENCY (Our ultimate touring vehicle probably would have a Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, BMW or Bentley emblem, but we’re sure that some 75 year old somewhere who will look at Lincoln’s concept and get weak in the knees.)
    • “Bentley sets new global sales record in 2007” Strong growth in both emerging and traditional markets takes Bentley above 10,000 units for the first time. (We’ve seen more new Bentleys on the road in the last year than we did cumulatively during the previous decade.)
    • “BMW ANNOUNCES PRICING FOR THE ALL-NEW BMW M3 COUPE AND SEDAN AT THE 2008 NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW IN DETROIT” hen the vehicles go on sale in March, the Coupe will be priced at $57,275 and the Sedan at $54,575. (Watch out Corvette, there’s a more-elegant, better-built competitor with a V8 coming to your price range soon!)
    • “Lexus Announces Pricing for All-New 2008 IS F” It’s a base MSRP of $56,000. (But if it’s anything like the sticker prices we’ve seen for ES350 examples sitting on lots, you’ll have a better chance of scoring a date with a Victoria’s Secret model than finding an IS F for under $70,000.)
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