Fusion Feng Shui: Ford's Marketing Misfire
Ford Motor Co. wants potential buyers of its new Fusion to think hard about the car's feng shui.
To that purposeful end, the auto maker on Friday released a simple but absurd chart demonstrating the Fusion's flow of chi, or life-energy. While this seems harmless at first glance, in reality the move smacks of being a poorly considered, random PR action to take advantage of consumers who are merely fad-following drones in Ford's eyes.
The company began its press release with a non-sequitur: "With rising gas prices, fuel economy is becoming increasingly important. But what if there was a way to keep good energy flowing inside the car as well?"
Usually feng shui, an ancient Chinese practice intended to produce harmony in an environment, is applied to the arrangement of structures and interior objects, but Ford thinks it's important to take it into account when buying a car.
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"Consumers spend so much time on the road these days, staying relaxed can only be beneficial. And with a car that offers as much interior quietness as the all-new Ford Fusion, taking the next step toward peace and harmony just makes sense," it said.
Basically, if your chi feels out of whack, go spend the $20,705 MSRP for the Fusion to straighten that out.
An easy initial reaction to the news that Ford is trying to use feng shui to sell the Fusion and Mondeo (as the sedan is called in Europe and Asia) would be to conclude that it was part of a campaign directed at the Asian market.
A Ford spokeswoman said that wasn't the case. "We were just looking at the new Fusion and how quiet it's going to be," she said.
Feng shui for a car is "kind of an unusual request. In the East it would be unheard of; in the West, not as much so," said Catherine Hilker, Detroit-based life coach, feng shui practitioner and owner of Creating Sanctuary, whom Ford worked with in preparing its press release.
"There's a tendency to try and find what consumers are looking for and then provide them with that," the spokeswoman said.
In other words, Ford is pandering. It hopes to capitalize on a shallow, and by all accounts weird, interpretation of feng shui in order to sell a few more cars, regardless of whether its ploy makes sense to real-world practitioners or if there is an established market demand.
The thing that's most confusing about Ford's feng shui effort, though, is there are plenty of good things to talk about with the Fusion already, including accolades from the Detroit Auto Show, the fact the hybrid gets 41 miles per gallon and its great drivetrain. To argue that consumers should buy the car for its feng shui potential seems to be selling the Fusion short.
How feng shui works in a house is explained by Ford: "For instance, is your financial area neglected and messy? Then perhaps your finances could use a second look. Are you storing your cactus collection right where your relationship area falls? Perhaps that explains how prickly your personality has been lately. Does your creativity area fall under that old, disused bedroom? That might explain a few things."
No news on who Ford thinks lives with a cactus collection or what the company's getting at with the creativity area in the disused bedroom. One would hope Ford's automotive feng shui advice might be more cogent.
In Western traditions of feng shui, a "bagua" or chi energy map is created. Ford created its own bagua for the Fusion. It shows the nine centers of chi energy in the car. Notably, the focus of "children/creativity" is hanging around just outside the rear passenger-side wheel hub, while "relationships" is centered somewhere substantially outside the passenger-side doors. The "helpful people" chi center seems to like the passenger-side mirror. "Wealth" is outside the driver's-side doors -- presumably that's because $20,000 is also outside of your wallet.
Hilker described how feng shui is best applied to cars (other than usually not at all). "I prefer to simply pay attention to the rooms that people spend the most amount of time in and make sure they have surrounded themselves with the kind of vibe they're trying to create. You can do the same thing with a vehicle."
She wasn't even particularly convinced that the Fusion was good for feng shui, despite Ford's assertions. Hilker said in an interview that she was planning to buy a new car this year and was considering a Ford Focus, Escape or the new Fusion, but not because of their feng shui potential.
"We're a Ford family; we buy Ford and we get the family discount," Hilker said.
Consumers, she added, shouldn't buy a car because of its good feng shui, but Fords are a good buy due to their American origins.
Maybe that's the real Fusion of peace and harmony.
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