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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Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • I agree heavily with the sentiments in the last few paragraphs. I believe that despite the excellent things that the Ford social media team is doing the overall Ford experience still leaves something to be desired.

    When transparency is the name of the game advertising prices for “highly qualified employee lessees” is not being transparent. This pricing trend is something that Ford should lead the way in changing.

    Advertise the street price: If I walk in off the street I should already know within say $50 what I can expect to pay.

    Make it easy to purchase: Let’s pretend I know exactly what I want. I don’t need to test drive it, I don’t need to be up-sold. I want a specific car with specific features and without others. Find a way to get me in and out and into my car, or with it on order, in under 45 minutes to an hour max. Buying a car is a long enough term commitment, don’t make the visit to the dealership that as well.

    While I’m excited about the quality of Ford’s products and the things they are doing in digital spaces, there’s still a ton of opportunity in improving the overall process of actually acquiring a Ford vehicle.

  • Nav says:

    I can’t beleive I am saying this, but I saw a 2010 Fusion on the road the other day, and it looked beautiful! I may actually consider purchasing (ok, I’m lying, I may consider leasing) the Fusion.

  • I’m not surprised. Some of the people that said they really liked the car were hardcore European car owners. This car in black with leather would be pretty sweet.

  • Bird says:

    Bottom line American cars initially and continue today to suffer from loss of sales to the Imports because of quality of car. Look no further then Hyundai who is climbing up fast. Simple solution to sales is quality at a good price. Hyundai used this, backed it with quality service and no hassle buying and what do you know. They are the fastest growing car company now.

    Until the Americans realize that no one will spend thousands on something that will fall apart in a few months to years they will never get out of the hole they have dug. Good marketing or not.

    – Happy owner of two Hyundai’s

  • Gina Gibson says:

    I have driven Fords since trading in my 1975 Gremlin for an LN7 in 1983. Besides that LN7 I have owned or leased a Merkur xR4Ti and so many Taurus’ or Sables that I have lost count. In my driveway right now is a 2002 Sable and a 2007 Taurus. The car that was traded in for the 2007 was a 1995 Taurus bought new by me in January 1995. I just laugh when my friends tell me how superior their foreign cars are…if they are so superior why do they trade them off after a year or two? And how can they tell about durability if they don’t own one long enough to determine it’s durability?

    GO FORD…please keep the mid size comfort of the Taurus!

  • Have to say I’m glad to hear you’ve had such a good experience – and that hearing it has me curious enough to take a 2nd look at a Ford.

    I’ve driven North-American made ‘imports’ for 15 years now, and like you have developed a fairly assumptive loyalty mindset that wouldn’t have made any room for an American brand with this post.

    But hearing from a trusted personal connection – the beauty of Social Media – that there’s cause to reconsider is exciting to hear, if for no other reason than its good to know that change really is in the air in the American Automotive Industry.

    And I’m more excited than not about this in terms of their overall marketing score because the kinds of overall change we’re talking about is cultural and core, and that kind doesn’t happen overnight, whether we’re talking a person, a corporation or a nation.

    The simple fact that this level of openness and innovation is present and has things moving in a more positive direction suggests they may also be able to begin hearing (and leveraging to their advantage) the other points you – and others like you – have made.

    Social Media scores again!

  • Kristen Kinley says:

    Great blog post! I’m biased though being a Ford employee. I think so few people are aware of this, but Ford is actually better than Honda and other Asian automakers in initial quality (things gone wrong per 1000 vehicles tested) and is tied with Toyota (according to RDA Research Group). Also, 70% of Ford models are recommended buys in Consumer Reports’ latest annual auto issue. Thanks for giving me a chance to weigh in. Have a great weekend!

  • I’ve been driving the previous generation Fusion since shortly after their release. (My past includes cars from most of the major manufacturers.) It has been an excellent car, and even without the hybrid motor, I routinely get well over 30MPG on the highway. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend one to anyone.

  • Stacy Spear says:

    I’ve driven Fords for 25 years and never had one break down on me or fall apart after a few years. Strangely, all but one of them died when other people hit them. Maybe the other drivers were in awe. 🙂 When the current cars give up their ghost (or get smashed) Ford will be first in line again.

  • Liz Hembree says:

    I’ve driven Explorers for years and loved the quality. We’re going on the 150,000 mile mark on the older one.

    My first car back in the 80’s was a Fiesta. Funny to see the model back in a fresh way. It’s interesting that social media is what seems to get a target demographic thinking differently about the brand and inspiring trials.

    As for the dealer experience, those problems plague most manufacturers’ dealers. Go to a “no haggle” dealer that sets a fair price and you can get in and out in an hour. I did it at Bowen Scarff Ford.

  • joe e tata says:

    how do we not buy northamerican made products at this time
    what is wrong with everyone in this country?
    how can u even admit to being a hyundia owner
    it is people like you that are killing this great country of ours
    if u don’t want to be here go and live in korea
    see if they help u get a job at hyundia then
    oops they don’t want you or your family either!!!!!!!

  • Jeff says:

    I love Fords. We have two Ford Focus’. I have driven Fords for over 30 years. Reliable and gets good gas mileage.

  • The reality is Ford vehicles are as high quality as any in the world including Honda and Toyota. The numbers tell us so. Our perception of reality is that American cars can’t possibly be as high quality as those made elsewhere. I for one think Ford Motor Co. should be rewarded for doing it right. They have survived where their American counterparts have failed and during the whole mess continued to produce world class quality cars. Not to mention their founding father paved the way for the world’s entire auto industry. I do not believe in entitlements and the world owes Ford Motor Co. absolutely nothing. The point is Ford has earned my business and I challenge all Americans to offer Ford the chance to earn yours.

    My family will be purchasing a new vehicle this year and I have given them the choice of several vehicles. Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo or Mazda.

  • Kaye says:

    I’m so tired of hearing the line of “until American auto makers make a better car” blah blah blah. It’s true the big 3 became complacent for many years and lost a lot of loyalty in the 80’s and early 90’s. But do you remember all those years when the Taurus was the #1 car of the year (92-96) and do you know the F-150 has been the best selling truck for 31 years straight?! I myself have owned 3 Fords – a Taurus (’91) and a Thunderbird (’97), each which had over 160k miles before I traded them in, and a Mustang (’96) which I plan to keep forever. And outside of normal regular maintenance, I’ve never had any major unplanned cash outlays due to malfunction (knock on wood). They do make good sustainable cars, and have for a good while now.

    That said, you have to research any car before purchase and *plan* your purchase (don’t buy a first year model and buy toward the end of that year’s production cycle), and your car will last if you treat it well and maintain it.

    Of course, there’s lemons among all makers and all name plates – my parents bought an Audi that nearly sucked the life blood out of them – but that doesn’t mean all Audis are bad cars. So why should a few bad US cars made 15 years ago spoil the bunch?

  • Would I consider a Ford after my BMW, my Mercedes, and year ago my Olds?

    I drive an Escape. My wife drives a Fusion. We never let the ‘buy foreign’ craze tilt our minds.

    And if you want a good deal, contact Jim Thomas at Jim.Thomas@Springfieldemail.com who owns Springfield Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and he’ll put you in a Ford more quickly than anyone I know.

    Tell him I sent you… that will prove to him that Social Media works – I’ve been advising him of that for years.

    Best,

    Charlie Seymour Jr
    http://twitter.com/UltimateWAHDads

  • Craig Blanton says:

    I own a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid and its great. Has plenty of power and I’m getting over 29 MPG with a lot of interstate driving. I’m a fan of @scottmonty and what he and Ford are doing.

    I will continue to own Ford Products

  • Green Machine says:

    If we dont all get on board and support our domestic products (products that have been as good or better than the imports for at least a decade) then we will have similar problems to what England has (no jobs). Does anyone realize the impact that the US auto industry has on the ENTIRE economy? My company has already gone out of business because I was an automotive supplier… and the Toyotas, Hondas, and Hyundais WILL NOT BUY FROM AMERICAN SUPPLIERS so dont tell me that you drive a US built Camry blah blah blah… Sure, its US built but thats as far as it goes (all the money goes back overseas). Even when Toyota upgrades their plant in Kentucky they only use Japanese suppliers.

    I used to travel a lot and noticed that the west coast is especially dis-loyal to our domestic products. We are all in a boat-load of trouble here folks… We cant help ourselves when we are constantly poisoning the economy.

  • dusteeroz says:

    I and my family have bought and driven nothing but Fords for the last 30 years. I agree with the ad above that Ford puts out more quality vehicles than any foreign automobile maker. I purchased a F350 4×4 7.3 power stroke Pickup in April 99 and have thanked the Lord every day for such an excellent vehicle. Every vehicle I have ever owned whether purchased as a second hand or new has been a Ford, except for my jeep. I am a jeep and truck person and will continue to be so. My next purchase will be another jeep, but never will I ever get rid of my truck.

    If you do proepr maintenance on your vehicle and don’t drag race it into the ground it will last you forever. In over ten years of ownership in my truck I have had very minimal go wrong with it. Parts wear out in time, you replace them, you take care of your vehicle, its lasts you a life time.

    My next used vehicle will be one of two cars, a 65′ Ford contvertible mustang or a 65′ Ford “T”bird. Course these are my dream cars.

    Hybrid stays in the back of my mind, I may choose one, one day. But I do like my truck.

  • Fred says:

    You made a statement “I’ve become brand loyal to other manufacturers and it will take a lot to break that hold”. For you, what does it take to break that mold? The Ford vehicle that you looked at had great fit, finish, ride, fuel economy, styling, and quality. You don’t mention price, so my perception is that it is competitive. What is left, only that people are unable or unwilling to consider a company and/or brand that, at one point in time, they had a bad experience with. What would it take to change your purchasing decision?

  • Fred,

    I’ve been waiting for that question.

    I’ve been pretty brand loyal to Honda, Acura, Toyota, and now Lexus for years. The Ford Hybrids barely registered.

    After driving the Fusion Hybrid, I admit they should have been considered.

    So, in short, what it took for me to consider a Ford was driving a Ford.

  • Fred says:

    Thanks for the response and your candor. No pun intended, but you would be a good spokesman for the Ford Hybrid Fusion. I don’t know if you’ve seen the “Drive One” commercial for the Ford Hybrid Fusion.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVs_cuXUH40

  • A Ford Ranger pick-up has been in our family in and our driveway for years. You can’t kill ’em and you can’t live without ’em.

    I travel a ton and rent cars almost weekly. The best way to fall in love (or hate) with a car is not the “test drive” but a REAL drive. Get in and out of it several times, pull up to a drive-up window. Put gas in it – maneuver in traffic – punch it on the freeway to merge.

    There have been some cars I thought “I would NEVER buy that” based solely on looks, but then behind the wheel for a couple of days and I’m in love.

    PT Cruiser comes to mind. Too bad they killed it. That car was F.U.N. FUN to drive. We took a convertible version “off road” accidentally and it was amazing how well it climbed rocks!

  • Marc says:

    As an owner of 45 cars in the last 30 some-odd years, I must admit that the quality of U.S. auto brands leave very much to be desired.

    It must be severe laziness on a corporate level, since the brands from Japan and Korea have built better products with a much higher level of value for the last 3 decades. There really is *no excuse* for this.

    It’s not too much to ask for a quality vehicle that has an excellent build quality, that won’t rattle and fall apart.

  • Eric Bowe says:

    Enjoyed your blog entry. I totally agree with your insight on how crass dealer advertising is doing Ford no favors, and probably working against more impactful social efforts.

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