Ford Enlists Youth Buyers To Start `Buzz’ On 2011 Fiesta

May 15, 2010/Steve Tackett

MOTOR MATTERS FREEWHEELING BY EVELYN KANTER

The subcompact Ford Fiesta has been the best-selling car in Europe and to build buzz for its North American introduction this summer as a 2011 model, Ford is favoring Internet marketing, specifically social media. This is not a surprising move since the main demographic for the new Fiesta is the young adult market that likely uses online social media.
Ford launched a special Fiesta web site last year and gave 100 people a European 2010 Fiesta, to chat, blog and post photos and videos about their experiences on FiestaMovement.com. The effort produced nearly 4 million Twitter views and more than 6 million YouTube views.
My own favorite video is one comparing the Fiesta with a Lamborghini, including demonstrating that the $13,995 (base price) Fiesta has a better turning radius than Lambo, which costs 10 times as much and does not get anywhere near Fiesta’s impressive 40 mpg. That’s better gas mileage than Fiesta’s main competitors — Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa — a feature that also is an important part of the marketing campaign. So is the all-new eye-catching styling and what I like to call creature features — things like heated leather seats and a soft-touch dashboard.
The Internet effort produced more than 80,000 of what Ford calls “hand raisers,” online requests for additional information. The campaign has been so successful that Ford is launching Fiesta Movement 2.0. This time, a new group of test drivers competes against one another for online votes, sort of a Fiesta version of American Idol or Dancing With the Stars.
Ford marketing executive Chantal Leonard told me she expects the Fiesta’s price, size and fuel efficiency will also appeal to a wide range of customers, from urban millennials buying their first car to boomers downsizing from large, luxury sedans, SUVs and minivans. She predicts that one-quarter of Fiesta buyers in the U.S. will have incomes of $100,000 or more, and “can buy any car,” but choose this one. It’s still too early to tell whether older, more affluent buyers will gravitate to Fiesta’s eyeball-searing magenta and lime color choices.
Besides fuel efficiency, Ford is marketing Fiesta’s safety features, which will appeal to buyers of any age.

There are seven airbags in the Fiesta, including a passenger side-curtain airbag and driver-side knee airbag, both unusual in vehicles of this size and class. Also, the frame contains a large percentage of ultra-high-strength boron steel.
“This is not a cheap car with trade-offs for size,” Fiesta’s chief engineer Steve Pintar told me when I had the chance to drive the 2011 Fiesta in the San Francisco area recently. He calls the Fiesta a “game changer” for Ford, which is now focusing on smaller, fuel efficient family cars, including the Focus, that are being manufactured and sold globally. There are Fiesta factories in Germany, Spain and China. The North American version is being built in a converted Ford truck plant in Mexico.
Something the American Fiesta has that the Euro-version doesn’t is Ford’s updated SYNC program, with live traffic reports and full integration with Pandora, which allows you to listen to customized radio content though your phone. Everything is voice-activated, of course, so the driver does not have to take eyes away from the road ahead, although the model I test drove had trouble understanding a “find route” command on a winding mountain road.
The 2011 Ford Fiesta is available as a sedan or five-door hatchback with either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission and a 1.6-liter four-cylinder 120-horsepower engine. — Evelyn Kanter, Motor Matters

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010