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fusion hybridAgainst all odds, and against all business logic, the early signs look like Ford Motors might be turning around. Unlike GM and Chrysler it has turned away government bailout money, seeking instead to get its house in order through more efficient operations. And unlike GM and Chrysler it internet effort is meshing with its product line and positioning.

The auto maker has taken at least some market share gains every month for the past year. And although it is prone to the same disastrous numbers that have led to those trips to Capitol Hill and concessions from its unions, some of its numbers are looking up. Ad Age reports that in the first two months of the year, the number of qualified buyers who planned to buy a Ford jumped 16% from 2008. Qualified buyers who intended to buy GM fell 12% and Chrysler 33%.

Due to sensitive times in the auto business, Ford is not doing much advertising in its traditional venues. It's not exactly the time to drop $500k on an ad spot. But check out its various websites and you'll see some very smart positioning. Example: the Ford Fusion is a no-frills return to basics for the company. Its website promises nothing less. In fact, while other brands still go for brand image, custom colors, and quirky applications, the Fusion stops at the 360-degree view that pretty much comes standard on web sites.

Same thing for a lot of the Ford brands including its truck line which has sold well. The websites are full of smart and basic tactics. They do what they're supposed to do, and one of those things it's supposed to do is get customers to test drive a car. Not only do the Ford sites serve as marketing vehicles for their cars, they leave a lot of reasons to go to the dealership.

Don't look for entertaining marketing from Ford. To paraphrase Talking Heads: "This ain't no movie; this ain't no foolin' around."

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Published 10 March, 2009 by John Gaffney

John Gaffney is US Editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter

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