2012 Ford Focus Electric: Small Ad Budget Due To Low Sales Of Volt, Fisker

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2012 Ford Focus Electric

2012 Ford Focus Electric

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Earlier this week, Ford announced it had signed a deal with troubled Internet content provider Yahoo to stream 10 episodes of an Internet reality show centered on its 2012 Ford Focus Electric. 

Called Plugged In, the show will send teams of contestants to various U.S. cities in Ford's battery electric hatchback, taking part in an elaborately staged treasure hunt where the ultimate prize is a 2012 Focus Electric.

While digital advertising campaigns for new cars are common these days, the general manager of Ford and Lincoln sales, John Felice, told Automotive News (subscription required) that Ford’s decision to advertise the electric car only in the digital realm isn’t driven by the desire to be trendy.

It's due to Ford's doubts over the future of the electric car.

“Because of the lack of awareness out there, people aren’t sure what kind of car they want,” he said.

“Electric is going to grow, but we’re not sure what the consumer is going to want, so we have to be flexible.”

In this case, "flexible" means spending just $10 million on advertising the 2012 Ford Focus Electric, instead of the $100 million normally earmarked for new Ford model launches.

The reason? According to Felice, Ford has watched automakers like Chevrolet and Fisker struggle to sell their plug-in cars.

In turn, Ford is worried that it will end up advertising a car no one will buy.

2012 Ford Focus Electric

2012 Ford Focus Electric

Enlarge Photo

To do so would be a waste of time, money and resources, Ford says. 

That attitude is reflected by Ford’s current plug-in and hybrid offerings. Rather than creating dedicated green cars (e.g. Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt), Ford has chosen to develop hybrid and electric drivetrains only for existing models. 

Unlike Nissan, which has invested upwards of $5.6 billion in designing and building all-electric cars and new assembly lines for them, Ford insists it won’t design or retrofit a production line for an electric- or hybrid-only model “until demand is clearer.”

Indeed, while Ford has trumpeted the Focus Electric as proof of its green credentials, the company's efforts are strongest in more efficient gasoline vehicles.

Industry sources suggest that Ford's production plans for the Focus Electric may be as low as 2,500 cars per year. The company has consistently refused to say how many electric cars it hopes to sell, and the Focus Electric's $39,995 base price is almost $5,000 higher than that of the 2012 Nissan Leaf.

Will Ford’s lackluster approach to advertising its first battery electric car hurt that car's competitiveness? Or has Ford never been entirely convinced by the electric car? 

Let us know in the Comments below. 


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Comments (24)
  1. It is disappointing that the campaign is not more aggressive. However, Ford needs to do what is right for their employee's and shareholders, and if that means tentative steps into the EV world, so be it.

  2. This could actually be bad for Ford, it shows a lack of commitment and they could find themselves behind their competitors in a few years. They should have maybe one or two electric cars in their lineup so they can learn from what they have and stay on par with other manufacturers. They're acting like putting out one EV just one, is some kind of threat to the company. I like the Focus Electric, but if their best efforts aren't in it why bother buying one, if they're not commited quality and customer service won't be as good as Nissan's efforts with the Leaf, so why not buy a Leaf instead?

  3. The price is approximately $3,000 too high compared to where it needs to be over the next 6-12 months. It can be only slightly more expensive than Nissan.

  4. "“Because of the lack of awareness out there, people aren’t sure what kind of car they want,” he said. “Electric is going to grow, but we’re not sure what the consumer is going to want, so we have to be flexible.”"

    This is a huge opportunity, if Ford can seize it. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. They have the ability to really shape perceptions about their car. My number one suggestion: It's sporty! I drive a Leaf, and I think a huge unexploited sales angle is to show how sporty ev's feel, especially in the city. 99.9% of the public has no idea what full torque at zero rpm means or feels like. Ford: Educate them with funny, clever marketing. There's no reason why an ev can't slide sideways over wet pavement.

  5. Ford, Audi & BMW are taking the "show me the money" approach toward EVs: just wait for somebody else (GM, Nissan & Tesla) to make the electrification effort, then come late with all guns firing (beautiful cars) to steal the market from them. Genius!

    It might just work, as Nissan and GM are design-challenged...

  6. Digital marketing and guerilla marketing could work.
    They should also seek to land some Government fleet contracts.
    No Reason why the GSA fleet can't be VOLTS and Focus Electrics.

  7. I don't think much needs be spent in advertising. Word gets out easily with the internet & people's interest in electric cars.

  8. Ford seems to be the only automaker that faces reality. If Nissan designed the Leaf from the ground up, they did a pretty horrible job of it. It is NOT the EV of the future. Or even the present, in my opinion. Smart economics , especially for EVs attempting to sell at lower price points, demands these days that the cars borrow as much as possible from existing production, gas powered vehicles. Battery prices make foolish any other strategy. Personally, I can't see any point in any automaker attempting to
    produce EVs for the masses at this point. It's simply not in the cards, economically speaking. Elon Musk has said this very same thing dozens of times, and , as usual, he's absolutely right.

  9. I drive a 100% electric Nissan LEAF. I was asked today by a lady at a restaurant parking lot, and later by a family at Walmart, about my car. Perhaps it is my license plate---LECTRIC or my bumper sticker that says "My other car has GAS." Anyway, BOTH asked about my gas mileage! Both thought my LEAF was a hybrid. These occasions were not the first time that I had to explain that the car uses no gas whatsoever. So my point is, that instead of CUTTING BACK on advertising for EV's, plus wasting money on cutesy ads with polar bears (LEAF) and guys going to the restroom at a gas station (VOLT), just do a straight forward education campaign stating that this is a revolutionary new car and explain what is does and how it works.

  10. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/09694F96-EB24-499B-8ACE-88D895DA215D/0/HybridReportApril15th2011.pdf

    the lack of commitment from auto manufacturers is obvious and disappointing. a quote from WSDOT report above

    "The Center for Automotive Research (ingeniously known as CAR) in Ann Arbor,
    Michigan is cancelling their 2012 electric car conference due to lack of interest Automotive News
    (Rogers, March 30, 2012) blogged. The conference has been around since 2009 and got business
    together to work on plug-in issues. Brett Smith
    , the conference organizer, says that while the
    cancellation could be construed that electric cars are dead, car companies want to look at a wider
    range of alternative power technology. "

  11. its why i got a Leaf. the commitment Nissan has shown to making it work by advertising, money into factories, etc. had built a TON OF CONFIDENCE in me months before a Leaf was even available. it is infectious to me! Ford should be doing the same thing! it is a mistake. they should be pushing the Fusion Energi as well

  12. @David: I beg to differ with Mr. Smith (who I've met) on this issue.

    CAR's "Business of Plugging In" conference competed head to head with the "Plug-In" conference also held annually. There didn't appear to be a need for both conferences in the eyes of attendees, and this was much discussed.

    And, frankly, more attendees voted with their wallets: Plug-In 2012 is continuing, and most people who may have gone to the canceled CAR conference will go there instead.

    Finally, some have proposed that CAR's conference was too closely linked to the interests of the Detroit Three automakers, whereas Plug-In is somewhat more ecumenical. I'll leave that judgment to others.

  13. Ford: Wanna sell more electric cars? DROP THE PRICE TO $27K!

  14. i guess we are seeing in action a little bit about what coda has said.

    we need more car companies whose only product are evs.

    ibm waited to get into the pc game. and then simply bought into control. but their greed hindered them from keeping it.

  15. True enough, big computers dominated the market before microcomputers, although today IBM's maket value of $235 billion trails Microsofts $255 billion and Apples $600 billion. Look out Ford gas engines dominate the market now but...

  16. I would like to see a comercial for an electric car that highlights the cars performance and quietness. I could see Tesla driving the Model S hard on a track sort of like Ford does with its new Taurus on the race track. It would be cool to see Motor Trend or Car and Driver running a Tesla Model S head to head against BMW's and Mercedes and Audi's and even the Cadillac CTS sports sedan. Tesla could hopefully make a good showing for the car of the year award or even winning it would be great to showcase how good an electric car can be.

  17. I have never, in my life time, seen an automaker produce, distribute, advertise, and price an ICE vehicle as poorly as they are the EVs. These are new vehicles on the market and there should be fireworks gong off in every state in the nation. I know that Ford is not obligated to us in any way, like GM is, to produce an EV, but since they did, shouldn't they set their stupidity aside and start setting off some fireworks to encourage people to buy their EV? What happened to Fords common business sense?

  18. Lame - auto marketers tell the consumer what to buy, not the other way around. Even when they have a hideous car they surround it with flash, graphics, and emotional triggers so you can't even see it, but you want it. For the general manager of sales to be so wishy washy is striking and very disappointing. Like many have said, this certainly dissolves any confidence they'll properly support the car in the way Nissan has. Bummer, I was hoping this would be a great American alternative to imports.

  19. Great story Nikki! My wife and I are planning to buy an electric car in December. We were going to wait and look at the Ford Focus EV but after reading this, I think we will ge ahead and buy a Nissan Leaf. Nissan is creating jobs in Tennesse. We'll go with the bold innovator and not the timid procrastinator. Btw: Still driving my ZAP Nikki. I see you all the time on the net. Good for you! Mark Higley Leavenworth Kansas

  20. Ford was always in the wait-and-see mode about EVs. They wouldn't even have the Focus EV if Magna hadn't designed and developed it on their own and then sold it to Ford. Ford is content to sell it at the very high price (for a car with the same capabilities as the LEAF except it has a small fraction of the luggage space), just to be able to claim some green credits.

  21. They are also selling the Focus EV only in states that force them to like California with its zero emission laws.

  22. This may be a clever way to gain interest. People love reality shows and if there are interesting things happening throughout, they may get some free viral marketing out of it. Giving people the chance to see how they are driven and charged is a valuable chance to inform while entertaining.

  23. stupid price nothing more.will never sell with so stupid price.
    Realistic price for beginner producer in hybrid sector should be at least 5 000 less then prius - professional hybrid car maker price.

  24. In the Long term, Tesla Motors is going to crush the big 3.

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