DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. is dusting off an old playbook in a bid to move more metal this year.
In January, the automaker revived what it calls a "focus vehicle" approach for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury.
Under the plan, Ford will concentrate its advertising, incentives, dealer bonuses and marketing muscle on a limited number of nameplates at any one time.
Ford is launching the program with eight nameplates, including the Ford F-series pickup, Ford Fusion sedan and Lincoln Zephyr sedan.
Dealer sources say vehicles will be rotated in and out of the program, probably quarterly, although the Fusion and the F series are expected to remain all year long.
Although more resources are going to the focus vehicles, Ford will continue to support other nameplates with advertising and incentives.
Ford says the idea is to spend promotional money more intelligently, increase showroom traffic and reduce floorplan costs by turning vehicles faster.
In 2005, Ford-brand vehicles took an average of 82 days to turn, 17 more days than the industry average, according to Edmunds.com.
That 17-day discrepancy was up from 14 days in 2004 and 12 days in 2003.
Dealers will be told of impending changes in the program as much as two months ahead of time so they can order the right vehicles and plan local and regional advertising that ties in with the national message.
"The dealers are our contacts with the customer," said Al Giombetti, president of sales and marketing for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury. "So if we can let them know what's going on in advance, they can plan for it."
Giombetti has told dealers that he intends to hold pricing and lease promotions stable for six months at a time.
Dealers have long been frustrated by receiving short notice of incentive programs, sometimes the night before they are launched. That was especially true in 2005, when Ford often changed its programs as a last-minute response to General Motors.
To receive notice of program changes two months ahead of time is "just unheard of," said Tom Addis, chairman of the Ford national dealer council.
"Giving everybody the opportunity to know what's going to come a couple months down the line (means) you can plan for yourself," said Addis, dealer principal of Lake City Ford in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
"We know in advance what we need to order, how to plan our marketing."
The focus-vehicle approach has worked for Ford in the past, and other automakers also use it. But with the exception of a brief return by Lincoln Mercury in 2002, Ford has not used the system for several years, dealers and Ford said.
Jim Sanfilippo, a marketing consultant with AMCI in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., says the focus-vehicle approach should deliver maximum bang for Ford's marketing dollars.
"The Ford guys want to go on offense," Sanfilippo said.
"They want to make a plan and execute it, and they want to stick with the plan. They don't want to let last-minute market gyrations disrupt their plan."