Turns out, Ford will spend about a tenth of what it usually spends on new-model launches on the all-electric Focus and will shoot for a more digital emphasis in the process because of uncertainty over how the cars will sell, a company executive told Bloomberg Businessweek.
Ford, which often spends in the neighborhood of $100 million publicizing a model launch, will likely spend less than $10 million on the Focus EV's digital campaign. That's according to John Felice, general manager of Ford and Lincoln sales. Ford is likely hedging its bets because of launches of cars like the Chevrolet Volt and Fisker Karma extended-range plug-ins that could best be described as "spotty."
On Wednesday, Ford said its digital campaign will include a game on Facebook that will let social-media users take "digital road trips." Players can use Mapquest to figure out how far the drive is to certain locations, and whether the Focus EV would be able to get them their without having to get out and push it.
Ford, which started production on the Focus EV in Michigan late last year, also said earlier this week that the EV would be featured in a reality-competition series called "Plugged In" that will be broadcast on Yahoo! starting in May. That series will involve two-person teams competing in a scavenger-hunt type competition and will take place in 10 U.S. markets, including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. "Project Runway" and "Top Chef" production company Magic Elves is creating the show, whose competition winners will be awarded Focus EVs.
"Plug N Play in Electric City with the 2012 Focus Electric" game gives Facebook users first Focus Electric driving experience over next six weeks
Focus Electric – certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to offer the equivalent of 110 miles per gallon (MPGe) in the city – is rated America's most fuel-efficient five-passenger vehicle
SAN FRANCISCO, April 12, 2012 – Ford is giving Facebook users the chance to take a road trip in the all-new Focus Electric before the car is available in most markets and without even having to step away from their computers.
Called "Plug N Play in Electric City with the 2012 Focus Electric," the Facebook-based game gives the user and four of his or her friends the ability to take a short trip in a virtual version of the car using Mapquest® mapping data to calculate how far different destinations are in proximity to charging stations along the way.
"This is a great way for consumers to both have fun and learn about the new Focus Electric at the same time," said Chad D'Arcy, Focus Electric marketing manager. "We want to offer people the opportunity to experience the car now, especially those on Facebook who have supported us for so long."
The trip provides a glimpse into just some of the technologies and features of Focus Electric, rated America's most fuel-efficient five-seat passenger vehicle and certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to offer the equivalent of 110 miles per gallon (MPGe) city, 99 MPGe highway and 105 MPGe combined.
Plug N Play in Electric City is Ford's latest foray into the social media arena and further illustrates how Ford is launching the new 2012 Focus Electric in a new and different way.
Ford's electrified vehicle business is fundamentally different than some competitors, beginning with a strategy to electrify platforms – not one-off specialty models – realizing sales will grow over time and the need for flexibility to adjust production to demand as the market develops.
Now, Ford is building on social media innovations such as the Fiesta Movement by taking the Focus Electric to consumers in a very targeted, digitally focused manner with an educational foundation because the company's research shows many Americans simply do not yet understand the technology.
"Social networking allows Ford to meet customers it might not connect with through traditional advertising, making it easier to open a dialogue with a whole new audience," said D'Arcy.
Ford announced earlier this week it is casting for "Plugged In," Yahoo!'s first reality competition series pitting teams of two against each other in a competition for the chance to win a Focus Electric. The series highlights many of Focus Electric's features as contestants rely on the vehicle to complete various challenges.
Ford's Electrified Vehicles Facebook page – home to the Plug N Play in Electric City game – was developed and launched in late 2010 to help consumers understand the differences between electrified vehicle technologies so they can make informed decisions about alternative-fuel vehicles. Now with more than 38,000 subscribers, the page can be found at www.facebook.com/FordElectricVehicles.
Plug N Play in Electric City highlights many of Focus Electric's features, such as the technology behind the car's advanced charging system and how easy it is to use.
"We worked diligently to provide an experiential application that offers both entertainment as well as education for our fans," said Scott Monty, Ford global digital and multimedia communications manager. "It's fun to share experiences through Facebook – and we hope to educate our customers on Focus Electric features along the way."
Plug N Play in Electric City is paired with Ford's electrified vehicle website at http://www.ford.com/technology/electric/, including a "Ford for Me" that allows consumers to describe their driving habits so the best electrified vehicle technology can be matched to their needs. More than 200,000 visitors already have checked out the Ford site.
Production of the Focus Electric began in December 2011 at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. More information about MAP can be found here.
Ford will ramp up Focus Electric retail production in the first half of 2012 for dealership availability in California, New York and New Jersey. By the end of 2012, Focus Electric will be available in 19 markets across the U.S.
More information about Ford's electrified vehicle lineup – including press releases, technical specifications and other related material – can be found online here. Photos of the Focus Electric can be found here.