Ford Motor Co. has a new 'Experience' for vehicle shoppers.
Dealerships in consolidated markets will use the retail name Experience in signs and advertising.
Experience will appear first in San Diego; Tulsa, Okla.; and Salt Lake City. Ford has completed consolidation deals in those three markets and is negotiating with dealers for more across the country.
Ford wants to turn 'Exper-ience' into a nationally recognized retail name.
The non-automotive name will try to convey a cultural overhaul in Ford Motor Co. showrooms and service centers in consolidated markets, said Ed Witt, president of Ford's consolidation venture in San Diego.
'The market is telling us the experience needs to change,' Witt said. 'We will be creating a brand around Experience.'
Ford's philosophy includes one-price selling, salaried salespeople, huge used-vehicle inventories, multi-brand superstores, satellite service centers and centrally located body shops.
Ford strengthened its consolidation strategy last month by creating a new subsidiary, Ford Investment Enterprise Corp., to manage the effort. The popular Ross Roberts, former general manager of Ford Division, was put in charge.
In a typical consolidation deal, the dealers sell their dealerships to a new venture. Ford and dealers take shares in the new company. One dealer is put in charge, and other dealers often take jobs in the venture.
Republic Industries Inc., the largest dealer group in the United States, is trying to create national recognition for its retail brand, AutoNation USA.
The Experience name may be linked with either a vehicle brand or a specific market. For example, Experience Lincoln Mercury and San Diego Experience are possible in Southern California, Witt said.
In Salt Lake City, consumer focus groups soon will test variations of the Experience name, said Duff Willey, CEO of the consolidated enterprise in that market. Salt Lake City Experience is not expected to be adopted because the market encompasses too many local communities with strong identities, he said. But Experience is a broad umbrella appropriate to the Salt Lake City multi-brand superstores that will sell Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Mazda under one roof. 'We will incorporate Experience,' Willey said.
Tulsa will begin using Experi-ence July 1. Local dealership advertising will vanish.
Instead, nine Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar and Mazda dealerships will begin an estimated $5.2 million, 18-month TV and print advertising campaign to launch the Experience name and concept, said a source familiar with the plan. The Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Jaguar stores spent an estimated $6 million in 1996 when advertising independently, the source said.
The four advertising agencies representing the five national brands created a consortium to develop the new campaign.
Experience was not Ford's first choice. The automaker initially chose the name 'Drive' only to discover it was not available, one source said.