Ford Motor Co. is swooping in to replace crosstown rival Chevrolet as the 2017 sponsor for the Woodward Dream Cruise.

The announcement comes a little over a month before the Dream Cruise will take place in August, when the annual event is expected to bring around 40,000 flashy cars and 1.2 million people to Metro Detroit’s main street.

“Dream Cruise is all about the sheer joy and freedom of the automobile, and Ford has always celebrated car culture,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing sales and service, in a news release. “From Fiesta to GT, we’re obsessed with making driving fun and we’re committed to celebrating that passion with enthusiasts of all ages in the birthplace of motoring.”

Sam Schembari, Ford spokesman, said the company is not disclosing a dollar amount for the sponsorship, but the one-year deal comes with an option to extend the sponsorship to additional years.

Meanwhile, Ford will also host Mustang Alley for the 19th year in a row during the Dream Cruise. The Dearborn-based automaker says this year’s pony car showcase will be the largest ever, and it will feature the new 2018 model.

And in a new feature for the year, Ford will hold its Driving Skills for Life program to the Woodward cruise, where the company’s philanthropic Ford Fund arm will teach new drivers safety techniques through a virtual reality app.

“We are elated to have Ford Motor Company’s commitment to the Woodward Dream Cruise, and we look forward to working together on this annual tradition that puts our region in the national and international spotlight,” said Tony Michaels, executive director, Woodward Dream Cruise, in a statement. “Ford consistently strives to make the Detroit region stronger, and we are incredibly grateful for their partnership.”

Earlier this year, General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet brand quietly dropped its presenting sponsorship of the annual event that draws an estimated 1 million or more people the third Saturday in August.

Chevrolet had been the largest sponsor of the event for six years straight. In 2011, Chevy inked a three-year sponsorship deal worth more than $1 million. GM’s largest brand would not say how much it spent as the Dream Cruise sponsor over the six years.

“We evaluate our sponsorships on a regular basis and make adjustments to our strategy based on our business needs,” a Chevrolet spokeswoman previously told The Detroit News. “While we are no longer the sponsor, we still see great value in engaging with Chevy fans, so we will continue to have our displays in Birmingham and Royal Oak to showcase our products and celebrate the summer tradition of cruising along Woodward Avenue.”

At the Dream Cruise, Chevrolet will continue to have its performance division display and vehicles at Memorial Park, north of 13 Mile in Royal Oak. It will display historic and current vehicles at the “triangle” where Old Woodward and Woodward meet in Birmingham.

However, Chevrolet will cease running its Silverado Rescue Squad pickups up and down Woodward to fix classics that stall, overheat or run out of gas. In the past, the trucks manned by certified Chevy technicians have helped upwards of 60 cruisers each year.

Ford had been approached about becoming the new presenting sponsor.

Presenting sponsors typically receive the highest level of recognition. The Dream Cruise’s official name had been “Dream Cruise presented by Chevrolet,” and the Chevrolet name was part of the event logo and official merchandise. Money from sponsors helps pay for costs of facilities, sanitation, cleanup and support such as policing from communities that are part of the Dream Cruise route along Woodward Avenue.

The Dream Cruise kicks off Aug. 19, and runs through that weekend.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

Staff writer Melissa Burden contributed

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