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Ford skips auto show, instead launching the 2011 Explorer using Facebook

Is debuting a new car at an auto show so last season? If you work for Ford, you just might answer ‘yes.’

Instead of unveiling the top-selling Ford Explorer at an auto show, the car company will reveal it on Facebook instead. According to USA Today, Ford thinks the 500-million member social media site is a better place to reach its customers.

Ford starts its Facebook campaign with teasers next week, saying the car will be revealed “soon.” The car company has not divulged the official date, but says it will be sometime in July.

“We live in a 140-character society,” Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media, told USA today, referring to the Twitter character limit. “When we have people’s attention, we want to make sure it sticks.”

In addition to changing its marketing campaign, Ford also remodeled the popular SUV. The original was a body-on-frame truck, but the new Explorer is a car-based crossover. By allowing the driver to select suspension and drivetrain settings, it can accommodate specific road conditions.

The new design will enable the car to get 25% better fuel economy. Ford is also incorporating additional safety features like inflatable rear seat belts.

By using a social marketing strategy, Ford hopes to update its brand and make its cars seem more current. But Heidi Sullivan, vice president of media research for Cision, told USA Today that the actual outcome is unpredictable. “The auto industry is so closely tied to reviews and news from traditional media outlets that I think it is a risky move to eliminate an auto show announcement,” said Sullivan. But, “The buzz created could far outweigh any negative reactions.”

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