Chevy uses bear, comic book geeks to fight F-150 in ads
Chevrolet is employing a 700-pound grizzly bear, a fake superhero and real NFL Hall-of-Famer Howie Long to take aim at Ford Motor Co.'s aluminum-bodied F-150.
Three new YouTube videos poking fun at the F-150's extensive use of aluminum insinuate — not so subtly — that steel is a safer, cheaper and better option for building pickups.
In one video, men are placed in a room with two metal cages, one made of aluminum and one made of steel. They are asked their perceptions of both metals. Suddenly, a 700-pound grizzly enters the room. They all run to the steel cage for protection.
In another, comic book fans are brought into a bogus focus group to give opinions about a new superhero: "The Almighty Aluminum Man." All say it's a dumb idea.
And in the third, Long talks with Eric Stanczak, Chevy's chief engineer, about how body repairs for the F-150 costs more and take longer, according to Chevy-commissioned third-party testing.
"I think Chevy's steel message is going to resonate with a lot of consumers," Kelley Blue Book analyst Akshay Anand said in an interview. "There's a subset of people who probably aren't convinced aluminum is the way to go."
The 2015 F-150 was the first pickup to be made with a body and bed of aluminum, which help save around 700 pounds compared to the 2014 model. The 2015 Silverado uses steel in the body and bed, but it has an aluminum hood, engine block and suspension components.
And despite perceptions to the contrary, Ford's aluminum-body truck is even safer than its steel-body predecessor: The 2015 F-150 earned the highest-possible score in its first government crash test safety rating. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2015 truck's SuperCrew cab — its most popular option — five stars in the New Car Assessment Program, thanks to a stronger frame, inflatable rear safety belts, lane-control technology and advanced air bags. The 2014 F-150 earned four stars.
The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups also both earned the highest-possible five-star ratings, while the Ram 1500 got four stars.
And the charge that repairs will cost more? Ford has stressed there would be no substantial increase in insurance costs.
Because the F-150 is such a high-volume seller — the F-Series has been America's best-selling vehicle for 33 straight years — Ford offered dealers with service shops a voluntary program that trains workers how to repair the new truck. Thousands have participated in the program, which includes tooling upgrades that will cost between $30,000 and $50,000. Ford will chip in up to $10,000 in rebates to purchase equipment for aluminum repairs to any interested dealer with a service shop.
Tom Wilkinson, Chevrolet trucks manager, said the ads are "about customer perception of materials, and are just a fun way to bring that to light." He said the ads were meant to be used online and through social media, although Chevy might run one of them on television.
Ford launched TV spots for the F-150 late in 2014, and has no plans for new ads in the near future, spokesman Mike Levine said.
Anand said the Chevy ads are lighthearted, and Ford should be more focused on building up its supply of trucks instead of responding to Chevy. Ford said it started the month of June with a supply of 75,000 trucks, roughly half of what it had at the same point last year.
"This is the opportunity for Chevy to shine, but over the long term, I think the F-150 will be fine," Anand said.
Through the first half of the year, the F-Series outsold Silverado 357,180 to 275,822, according to Autodata Inc. In June, F-Series sales fell 8.9 percent to 55,171, while Silverado sales rose 18.4 percent to 51,548.
This isn't the first time Chevy has directly attacked Ford in ads. During the 2012 Super Bowl, GM ran a commercial in which a group of Silverado-driving men met after the apocalypse and mourned the loss of Dave, a friend who didn't survive the end times because he drove a Ford.
When Ford threatened to sue, GM went public with the dispute and didn't back down. "We can wait until the world ends, and if we need to, we will apologize," former global chief marketing officer Joel Ewanick said at the time.