Ford Division will allay any lingering concerns about the Firestone tire recall by letting potential buyers drive the redesigned 2002 Explorer that debuts this spring.
Ford plans a traditional advertising launch for the redesigned 2002 Explorer in the spring, featuring broadcast, direct mail, the Internet and print media, Explorer marketing manager Ed Molchany says.
'There will be a safety message,' he says, 'but there would have been regardless of' the recall. On Aug. 9, Bridgestone/ Firestone Inc. recalled 6.5 million tires that were blamed for a rash of tread separations and rollovers, especially on Explorers.
Molchany contends that Ford will bring consumers back to the Explorer. He says Ford research shows 90 percent of Explorer owners would buy a new version of the sport-utility if it were not equipped with Firestone tires.
Choice of tires
Buyers of the new Explorer, which is scheduled to reach dealerships in the mid to late first quarter, will be offered their choice of Firestone, Goodyear and Michelin tires.
'While I cannot provide an actual dollar amount, I can say that the 2002 Explorer marketing launch will be at least as big as any new product launch at Ford,' Molchany says. That would be an estimated $100 million-plus.
'First of all,' he says, 'this is a completely redesigned product, and second, it's the second-best-selling vehicle in Ford Division (behind the F-series pickup). But more important than the amount we spend, however, will be the impact the launch will have - particularly on current Explorer owners.'
The advertising and marketing campaign will target Explorer owners, Molchany says. A new wrinkle in the marketing campaign will be the Explorer's inclusion in Ford's No Boundaries Experience consumer events.
Pilot No Boundaries Experiences have been held during the fourth quarter of 2000 in Atlanta; Dallas; Irvine and San Diego, Calif.; and Mahwah, N.J. The events have been by invitation only for owners of the current Explorer, other Ford vehicles and some competitors' sport-utilities.
Participants could take all Ford sport-utilities except the Explorer on roads and on off-road courses. The events also have featured product displays and engineers to answer questions. No dealers have been present.
When the national program rolls out in late February or early March, participants also will be able to drive the new Explorer.
'It will be a key part of the launch of the Explorer,' Molchany says, allowing Ford to meet customers 'on a more personal level.'