DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co., introducing its first hybrid-only model, is targeting Toyota Motor Corp.'s market- leading Prius in a series of advertisements starting today.
The C-Max wagon, a vehicle Ford brought from Europe and equipped with a gasoline-electric propulsion system, arrived in showrooms last month. The model will be promoted in an animated ad campaign debuting on CNN's TV network that features line drawings of a character driving a C-Max past a rendering of a Prius V wagon as an announcer extols the Ford over the Toyota.
The C-Max is among six new hybrids and electric cars Ford is fielding this year and next in an effort to advance in a market dominated by Toyota. The Prius line of four models accounted for 51 percent of U.S. hybrid sales this year through August, while Ford had 4 percent, according to researcher LMC Automotive.
"The challenge is that the Prius has such a strong brand in the hybrid space," Michael Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain research at LMC Automotive in suburban Detroit, said in an interview. "The C-Max is new so it faces a challenge in consumer awareness and in convincing people interested in a Toyota to consider a Ford instead."
Ford is using the animation to draw attention to the C-Max ads, Jim Farley, the company's global marketing chief and a former Toyota executive, said in an interview.
"When you're a challenger brand like we are, you have to break through with your message to get noticed," Farley said. "Two-D animation is not something you're used to seeing. It's to get people's attention to say, 'There's something new.'"
CEO Alan Mulally has made fuel economy a cornerstone of his turnaround plan. The C-Max is rated at 47 miles (76 kilometers) per gallon both in the city and on the highway, Ford said in a statement today. That exceeds the 44 mpg city and 40 mpg highway for the Prius V wagon, though the C-Max trails the original Prius car, which is rated at 51 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway.
Ford has also priced the C-Max to start at $25,995. That's below the Prius V's base price of $27,345, according to researcher Edmunds.com. Ford also said the C-Max can generate 188 horsepower, more than the Prius V's 134 horsepower.
As an animated C-Max zips by a drawing of a Prius V in the ads, an announcer says: "C-Max has lots more horsepower than Prius V, a hybrid that C-Max also bests in mpg."
Ford declined to say how much it is spending on the ad campaign. Wes Sherwood, a spokesman, described it as "a major launch" that "will extend over a longer period of time to help establish the new name."