Judge and Jury: Ford revs its PR engines with a tantalising glimpse of Focus - With the PR pedal pressed firmly to the metal, Ford’s latest release went from factory floor to the motoring fast lane in Geneva, says Martin Hayes director of Martin H

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.

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

interior.



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!



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