DETROIT - Six hundred Ford SVT owners and their families partied in Southeastern Michigan at the first owner-loyalty gathering for the performance brand.
Each family paid $150 to attend the Aug. 10-13 event, which included a cocktail party, drives at two racetracks, plant tours, a car show and a concert.
The event is part of a growing trend. Automakers are trying to find a more enduring connection with owners than simply advertising to them.
'It generated a spark to do more of this kind of thing in the future,' said Tom Scarpello, SVT marketing manager. Ford Special Vehicle Team, a business unit of Ford Motor Co., develops performance versions of some Ford vehicles.
The program is an extension of SVT On Track, a half-day test program launched last year. 'We went to different parts of the country, rented tracks, invited owners,' Scarpello said. 'We brought in the Bob Bondurant school to provide special (driving) instruction.'
Scarpello wouldn't say how much the program costs. 'It's very expensive - painful but necessary,' he said. 'We're making an investment as a jump-start.'
The Special Vehicle Team has a marketing partnership with Harley-Davidson Inc., Scarpello said, and he is modeling his program after those run by the Harley Owners Group. 'Harley plays a supervisory role, but it (the group) runs on the resources of volunteers at a local level,' he said.
There are four national SVT clubs and up to 20 regional clubs. Five hundred ninety Ford dealers in North America are certified to sell SVT vehicles.
SVT has sold 5,000 of the 7,450 vehicles it will produce this year. Its 2000 models are the SVT Mustang Cobra R, the SVT F-150 Lightning and the SVT Contour.