Stealing the limelight is everyone’s ambition. Doing it when your
product’s not quite ready for the market is just that bit more difficult
- but Ford made a good attempt at last week’s Geneva motor show.
Making their story stand out from the crowd is something everyone in PR
is familiar with. That’s certainly true in the motor industry when the
’story’ is a new car which cost hundreds of millions to develop and when
there is one prime shop window at which to make an impact.
Ford faced up to that challenge last week at Geneva - the industry’s
most important show of the year. Their problem? To launch the Ford Focus
- the radically named and equally radically styled successor to the
ubiquitous Escort at a time when the car was not quite ready.
Don’t believe stories that they were forced into an early ’reveal’
because of scoop photographs in some magazines (the time to worry is
when the product’s so boring that no one wants to snatch shots of it!).
No, this was a carefully planned attempt to win some column inches at
Europe’s most prestigious show and, in doing so, steal some of the
thunder from the competition despite the fact that their cars were
actually ready for sale.
Ford’s approach was as bold as the new car itself. They leaked a series
of ’will it, won’t it be there’ stories, announced the new name (the
jury’s still out on that) the day before press day, lifted the lid on a
few unexpected specification goodies such as satellite navigation aids
and then showed the car in a well defended parking bay, far away from
the public gaze to avoid anyone seeing the still unfinished
For that treat, motoring hacks will have to await the Paris motor show
in autumn, the true launch pad for the finally finished Focus (it
actually goes on sale in October).
While the ultimate PR accolade at Geneva has to go to Rolls Royce and
its stylish launch of the Silver Seraph which took top honours from the
media - Ford’s efforts to put itself and the new Focus at centre stage
were fairly impressive. Although the Focus will be built in Germany and
notMerseyside (where the Escort is manufactured), any fears of job
losses should be allayed by January’s announcement that the Ford plant
in Halewood on Merseyside will be building the latest Jaguar.
As usual, only time and the road testers will determine how the new
Focus is received, but its been given a pretty good send off and plenty
of positive column inches, even before it’s quite finished. So good, in
fact, that British car buyers probably won’t even notice that its no
longer made in the UK!