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Ford's F-Series Truck In A Real Tough Spot

Monday, 8 Sep 2008 | 10:15 AM ET
Ford F Series
Ford F Series

Talk about a tough time to come out with a new truck. The economy is struggling, the housing market is in the tank, high gas prices have spooked buyers out buying big rigs, and there's little enthusiasm for new models (unless they're hybrids).

Welcome to the challenge facing Ford. More specifically, it's the test for the company's head marketer Jim Farley.

Ford has yet to say exactly how it will tackle this problem, but it will likely mean narrowly targeting pick-up buyers. That means the traditional big budget, nationwide, blow-out ad campaign likely won't be happening. And, in my opinion Ford would be wise to save it's money.

When I talk with Ford dealers in the Midwest and Texas (the #1 truck market in the U.S.), I routinely hear them say, "Can't wait to get the new F-series. I just hope the regular customers are there." That's the problem for Ford. It's new F-Series truck may be the best and most capable pick-up it's ever built, but if traditional buyers are worried about the economy, they'll stick with their old truck.

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F-Series sales are down 25% this year. Most of that is due to outside factors, like the weak economy, not because the competition is stealing away sales. When those outside issues subside, Ford hopes it's best selling vehicle will pick up bigger sales. But until then, the automaker has to find a way to convince buyers it's time to upgrade.

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Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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