(Ford vs. Toyota article updated with more detail about Ford commercials and Ford and Toyota stock price movements)
NEW YORK (
has finally found a major vulnerability in
products -- and it clearly isn't willing to let the opportunity slip away.
Following Toyota's two massive recalls, Ford is now attempting to grow sales with new commercials taking on Toyota.
The commercials are part of Ford's "Spread the Word" campaign, which was launched on Jan. 12. Each of them feature Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel's
speaking to ordinary people in various settings about Ford vehicles. Rowe "spreads the word" at a gas station, in a coffee shop and at a school. In the school scene, Rowe finds a group of students at a library and quietly lets them know that "Ford has quality that can't be beat by Honda or Toyota."
Toyota customers are shown looking fearful and confused about the state of their cars.
In one such commercial Rowe is at a Ford plant, as quality control measures are being carried out. The video shows inspectors diligently examining each and every square inch of the vehicle's exterior. "This is after every aspect of each vehicle has been checked and double checked," Rowe points out. "These guys are obsessed." In this commercial, he once again says that "Ford has quality that can't be beat by Honda and Toyota." The commercial was shot in August of 2009, but the spot wasn't produced until last week.
has been debuting a marketing program claiming that its quality is superior to Toyota's, according to CNBC.
Still, Toyota isn't taking these tactics lying down. The company ran ads before and after the Super Bowl on Sunday, reassuring customers over its sudden acceleration problems and massive recalls.
The potential severity of Toyota's image problems has also prompted the automaker to put together
consisting of lobbyists, lawyers and public relations experts to defuse the mounting political and regulatory firestorm.
Some are suggesting it would be worth the time, from now on, for the company's media-shy president, Akio Toyoda, to be play a far greater role in managing the company's public relations -- just like Bill Ford, Ford's executive chair, has done. Bill Ford has been heavily involved as a spokesperson for Ford. Both are descendents of the respective automakers' founders.
Ford stock has inched down 0.2% to $11.10 in pre-market trading, and Toyota American Depositary Receipts have risen 1.7% to $75.90.
ADRs have lost ground, trading down 2.4% to $33.70.
( DAI) is also down, currently trading $46.20, down 0.4%.
-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York
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