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Ford to Spend Less Marketing Electric Car on Yahoo Show

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April 10 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co. plans to spend less to market its electric cars, choosing to reach consumers through digital media with Yahoo! Inc. rather than television because of uncertain demand.

Ford’s digital-media campaigns tend to cost less than $10 million compared with as much as $100 million for a traditional marketing program, John Felice, general manager of Ford and Lincoln sales, said in an interview in New York. The company said it will market the Focus Electric on a reality television show on Yahoo! Screen, or screen.yahoo.com, that will feature celebrities and have teams competing to win the car.

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

Ford is making electric versions of models it already produces, such as the Focus, with plans to triple output of hybrids and electric vehicles to more than 100,000 in 2013. Introducing a new electric or hybrid model would mean devoting a plant and marketing outlays to establish the new vehicle, something the company isn’t ready to do until demand is clearer, Felice said.

Ford’s strategy comes after difficulties some competitors had on new models, the executive said.

General Motors Co. halted Volt production for four weeks because sales were hurt after a federal investigation into the safety of the car was announced in November. The probe was closed in January, with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration saying the Volt posed no more of a fire risk than other cars. Fisker Automotive Inc.’s $103,000 Karma sports sedan shut down in a test by Consumer Reports magazine.

‘Plugged In’

The reality show, called “Plugged In,” will include 10 episodes that will teach consumers how to use and charge an electric car as contestants travel on a “scavenger hunt,” Ford and Yahoo said in a joint statement. “Plugged In” won’t mention Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford’s competitors, Felice said.

Ford and Yahoo expect the show to spread virally among Yahoo’s video audience, which included 61 million unique viewers in February, said Erin McPherson, head of video at Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Frier in New York at sfrier1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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