DETROIT - After 20 years and 1.5 million vehicles, it is hard to imagine a more effective co-branding association than the one Ford Motor Co. has with Eddie Bauer.
"It's the behemoth of all of these relationships," says industry analyst George Peterson, president of research group AutoPacific. "Eddie Bauer has become the mainstay of the Ford SUV lineup."
No affinity marketing tie-up in auto industry history has been as widely used on vehicles as the one between Ford and the famed outdoor outfitter.
Over the years, Ford has sold Eddie Bauer editions of the Bronco, Bronco II, Aerostar minivan and F-series truck.
Currently, Ford sells specially equipped Eddie Bauer versions of the Explorer, Expedition and Excursion.
Premium-priced Eddie Bauer models feature amenities such as signature body cladding, illuminated running boards, two-tone leather and specially appointed interiors.
In 1983, Ford drew on the outfitter's reputation for quality, versatility, durability and outdoor adventure to help create an image for its passenger trucks.
"The original intention was to bring a little bit of a different image to some versions of our truck-based products like the Bronco," says Doug Scott, Ford truck group marketing manager. "At the time, we were taking a truck-based chassis and developing a whole new market, which became the sport-utility. We wanted the attributes of a truck in a higher vein, and Eddie Bauer was obviously the upscale image and the outdoors image that fit the bill."
As part of the relationship, Eddie Bauer taps into Ford's customer base and, in turn, Ford promotes its products in Eddie Bauer catalogs and stores.
Twenty years later, Scott says it has all paid off.
"Typically, the automotive business is a fast-changing, competitive environment," he says. "Usually these kinds of relationships do not endure."