Ford sues Nissan's Brazil management over TV ad

Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:21pm EDT

Related Topics

* Ford files suit against Nissan's Brazil management

* Rappers in TV ad ridicule Ford for allegedly high prices

By Guillermo Parra-Bernal

SAO PAULO, March 24 (Reuters) - The Brazilian unit of Ford Motor Co (F.N) filed a criminal lawsuit against the local management of rival Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) for airing a TV commercial that says the U.S. automaker charges customers too much for hatchback models.

The commercial, which was withdrawn from national TV on March 3 after Ford obtained an injunction, shows two rappers dressed as Ford engineers in factory outfits boasting about the money they pocket by overpricing the hatchback Focus model. A silver Focus lies in the background, while bikini-clad models dance and sip champagne.

"All the luxury that I got, I got it with your money," the rappers boast, showing off their gold rings and chains. "Don't weep because you're paying extra money -- your money was well spent, look what I do with it."

The lawsuit was filed at a regional police department in the city of Sao Jose dos Pinhais, in southern Parana state, where Nissan and France's Renault (RENA.PA) have a joint factory, people familiar with the situation told Reuters on the condition of anonymity. Police Chief Osman Feijoo has agreed to file charges against Nissan, an assistant said.

Feijoo declined to comment, as did Ford's media office in Sao Paulo. A Nissan spokeswoman in Sao Paulo did not have an immediate comment on the suit, which accuses Nissan's local management of "improper brand use" and "unfair competition."

Nissan has taken on a more aggressive marketing approach in recent months in Brazil, where car sales have hit sequential records for four years. The ad touts Nissan's Tiida model, which costs 3,000 reais ($1,806) less than the Focus.

TV ads where companies name and poke fun at rivals are uncommon in Brazil. Last year Nissan took aim at General Motors (GM.N) and Fiat FI.MI, Brazil's best-selling auto brand, in a series of ads that were eventually withdrawn.

Ford is ranked fourth in Brazil's auto market, with a market share of 9.4 percent. Nissan, a relative newcomer to Brazil, ranks 12th, with market share of 1.6 percent. ($1 = 1.66 reais) (Additional reporting by Todd Benson, Cesar Bianconi and Alberto Alerigi Jr., Editing by Todd Benson and Matthew Lewis)

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