I’ve owned dozens of cars, and like a lot of people, most have been Japanese or German. So when I turned in my leased Honda and started the hunt for a new hybrid, I drove the Toyota Prius, Camry and Highlander Hybrids, the new Honda Insight and a Lexus RX 400h.

  • The Prius felt underpowered
  • The Camry was nice, but felt too much like the Accord I’d just turned in
  • The Insight was loud and somewhat disappointing
  • And the Highlander Hybrid was so close in price to the Lexus, I chose the latter of the two

But the events of the last week have me second-guessing myself, and I have Ford’s social media marketing team (and a great product) to blame for it.

Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, Ford contacted me “looking for fresh perspectives and feedback, something a little more engaging and authentic” from “non-traditional approach for bloggers and other content creators” and asked if I’d be interested in test driving the new Fusion Hybrid for a few days.

I agreed, and last Thursday, they delivered a shiny new one to my office, with the Michigan “Manufacturer” plate and all.

Here are few pictures I snapped with my iPhone:

I drove the car to work, to the beach, to Costco, to a Mariners game. Basically everywhere.

The fit and finish were good and the ride was really quiet. In fact, it put my both my high-energy kids to sleep on the ride back from their grandma’s house. Sounds like a cliche, but it’s true.

I got a lot of comments from neighbors “That’s really a nice car,” co-workers “I’d buy that” and was even given a special parking spot by a parking lot attendant after he said “Is that the new Fusion Hybrid—cool!”

What I liked most was the fact I nearly forgot it was a hybrid. The transfer from electric to gas is less obvious than it is with my Lexus, a fact that the press hasn’t missed, with USA Today calling it the best gas-electric hybrid yet.

Oh, and while I didn’t get the 81.5 miles per gallon achieved in a recent hypermiling stunt, I did get a respectable 39.5 MPG in a mid-size car.

All-in-all, an eye-opening experience.

Ford’s social media team is firing on all cylinders

You might have heard the buzz about the Fiesta Movement, Ford’s social campaign that put 100 “agents” (selected from over 4,000 applicants) behind the wheel of a 2011 Ford Fiesta for six months and how they’re sharing the results of their “missions” on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.

Ford is winning on the social web due to the aggressive approach that Scott Monty and Ford’s social media team have been taking to engage customers and build authentic conversations around their products and brands.

A return to the past?

Their bet is that if people actually drive a Ford, they might buy one. In fact, Alan Mullaly, CEO of Ford, is interested in resurrecting “Have you driven a Ford lately?” campaign from the mid 1980’s.

Here’s an ad from that campaign that aired in 1984, the year I graduated from high school.

So, why didn’t I consider Ford?

Old attitudes and habits die hard.

Recent research from Nielsen puts Ford’s brand advocacy quotient below companies such as Kia, Pontiac and Chrysler.

While Ford’s branding and social media campaigns are good, I’ve become brand loyal to other manufacturers and it will take a lot to break that hold.

Ford’s dealers still publish absurdly noisy ads with prices the average buyer will seldom get (loyalty discounts, military discounts, first-time buyer discounts, etc)— and you’ll always have to haggle with the salesperson and expect them to bring in the manager when they can’t close the sale.

Still, that happens with most dealers and Ford’s product is good and worth a look.

People like me have been saying “Once American manufacturers catch up with Japanese and Germans, I’ll start buying American cars again.”

Well folks, has that time come? Ford’s product quality and the way they’re communicating with customers has me reconsidering their offerings.

Would you consider a Ford?

Comment below to weigh in.

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