Ford offers behind-the-scenes look at turnaround

DETROIT -- Criticized for not shifting fast enough into crisis mode, Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday said it would offer consumers an unusual, behind-the-scenes video journal of its turnaround efforts.

The second-largest U.S. automaker, which is closing 14 plants and cutting up to 30,000 factory jobs, unveiled a series of short, Internet-distributed films it hopes will ultimately generate more interest in its vehicles and reverse a decline in U.S. sales.

The first in such a series, titled "Change or Die", is posted at http://www.fordboldmoves.com and features Ford executives and employees talking about the challenge of turning around the company's North American operations.

In the first five months of this year, the company's U.S. sales dropped 3.5 percent from a year earlier, compared with an industrywide decline of less than 1 percent.

The short videos posted on the Web site, which resembles a blog, is part of the automaker's new marketing campaign called "Bold Moves."

"I am fascinated," said Jim Sanfilippo, analyst with auto marketing consultancy AMCI. "It's done quite well. It's quite blunt. It's quite brazen almost."

But Sanfilippo said he was not sure about who the audience would be for such films outside of Ford employees and industry watchers. "That's the big mystery," Sanfilippo said.

In the initial film, Mark Fields, the Ford executive in charge of overseeing the North American restructuring says "Change or die, baby, that's what it's all about." In a later episode he acknowledges the oft-heard criticism that many of the company's vehicles lack edgy designs.

"Gotta get that design mojo back," Fields says.

Ford plans to run about 50 of such videos this year as it tries to slow the decline in its U.S. market-share. Ford's market share fell to 18.5 percent in 2005 from 19.1 percent a year earlier, according to industry tracking firm AutoData.

The automaker has said it plans to increase its advertising spending by at least 10 percent this year and next.

Future episodes in the series will focus on the people and products driving Ford's comeback, the company said.

"Showing America the turnaround of the company is quite intriguing," said Ford Vice President Francisco Codina, who oversees North American marketing. Some of the films are "quite uncomfortable for us at times."

Consumers will be able to view at least one new 3-5 minute video installment each week that will take them inside Ford executive offices, design studios and assembly plants, the company said.

In one of the episodes, Peter Horbury, Ford's top North American designer, talks about his perspective on the role of design in Ford's comeback.

In another series of episodes, cameras follow racing legend Carroll Shelby and Ford's Special Vehicle Team as it rolls out the first 2007 Ford Shelby GT500.

Mary Lou Quesnell, director of "Ford Brand DNA," said the series was a "way to communicate to consumers and bring them together."

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