If the word “hybrid” came up in a word-association game, the most common reply would most likely be “Prius.” Which presents a bit of a problem for Ford as they roll out their first hybrid-only model, the C-Max.


“The challenge is that the Prius has such a strong brand in the hybrid space,” Michael Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain research at LMC Automotive told Bloomberg News. “The C-Max is new so it faces a challenge in consumer awareness and in convincing people interested in a Toyota to consider a Ford instead.”


What to do? Take on the Prius head-on, so to speak. In a new animated ad campaign debuting on CNN, an announcer praises the Ford over the Toyota while a line-drawn character jumps out of his Prius in frustration with its apparently plodding performance. “Mr. Linea” then abandons the Toyota in favor of a C-Max, in which he nimbly zips away in, leaving the rest of the traffic, and the Prius, in the dust.


"It's a direct comparison. Prius is so well understood by customers. Toyota has done such a good job with hybrids. So it makes sense for us to compare C-Max to Prius," says Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president in charge of global marketing.


Will the clever campaign be successful? It’s anyone’s guess, but it seems that Ford will at least face an uphill battle in the status department. A recent survey of car-buying habits found that the nation’s wealthiest neighborhoods are quite attached to their hybrid Toyotas, in many areas opting for the Prius over brands like BMW and Mercedes Benz. Maybe Ford will go after luxury brands next?


In related news, automakers are cutting back on electric cars because the early-stage EV market is moving slowly, faced with high cost and range anxiety. Read all about it in Toyota's go-slow message on electric cars.


More hybrid car stories on MNN:

Battle of the brands: Ford takes on Toyota in new hybrid ads
The Detroit automaker gets a touch of campaign fever with new marketing aimed to take down the competition.