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Ford targets millennials, empty nesters

MILLIONS of empty nesters and millennials in the US are in the market for smaller cars and crossovers, and Ford Motor Co. wants to capture their attention with a new advertising campaign slated to debut next month.

The campaign plays on the theme of “and, not or” and paints unattractive pictures of forcing choice such as mac “or” cheese, rock “or” roll, bed “or” breakfast, as opposed to both. The message: Ford’s combination of performance and fuel economy is the better way to go.

The ads are targeted at vehicles mid-sized or smaller, from the Ford brand that includes the Fusion, Focus and Fiesta cars and the Escape and C-Max crossovers. The traditional print and broadcast campaign will run for the rest of the year and focus on individual vehicles.

“When customers shop, they usually start in the middle of the market,” said Amy Marentic, group marketing manager for global small and medium cars.

Ford has dubbed this pool of vehicles the “super segment,” accounting for half of new vehicle sales nationwide, compared with 35 percent in 2004, said Erich Merkle, Ford’s US sales analyst. The numbers are huge and growing: almost 7.4 million vehicles last year, up from about 6.2 million in 2011.

And he sees no signs of it letting up.

Millennials, who range in age from late teens to early thirties, start with entry-level vehicles, and their purchasing power will only increase as they age. And baby boomers are downsizing and will continue to become empty-nesters in the next five to 10 years, Merkle said.

Millennials represent 85 million to 90 million buyers alone, Merkle said, and they are just starting to exert themselves on the marketplace. Combine that with the baby boomers, and the pool is 160 million consumers. By comparison, Generation X is only about 27 million strong.

Their buying patterns have a huge effect on market trends. Boomers don’t need big family vehicles anymore, and millennials don’t need them yet. Large SUV sales have dropped dramatically while small crossovers are hot. Small cars—mid-size or smaller—accounted for 13 percent of the US market in 2004 but represent 21 percent today, Merkle said.

Ford is working to ensure its fair share. The automaker sold 818,000 smaller cars and crossovers last year and the super segment is driving market share increases. Toyota is the dominant player in the super segment. 

Detroit Free Press

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