Seeking to stoke sales as it rolls out the new Ford Flex cross/utility vehicle, Ford Motor Co. hopes its upcoming “Drive One” ad campaign will rival the staying power of the once-popular tagline, “Have You Driven a Ford Lately?”

“Drive One” ads are shown at a dealer preview last month in Las Vegas where Ford's new group marketing and communications vice president, Jim Farley, urges dealers to fire up their employees.

He says Ford is lagging the industry in marketing results and customer awareness.

“I'm asking you to help yourself,” Farley tells Ford dealers. “Get your people excited. We want to sell 100,000 Flexes in its first year, but we need to make consumers aware of our improved quality, safety and technology.”

Farley notes that, for the first time in many years, the beleaguered auto maker consulted with dealers and consumers intensively before finalizing “Drive One” ads.

Voicing frustrations, event attendee Jeff Robberson, a Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealer in Bend, OR, laments, “We've had the best showroom displays ever and yet we don't have people shopping us. The need for this new campaign is huge.”

Farley acknowledges it would take up to five years to determine whether “Drive One” would resonate like “Have You Driven a Ford Lately?”

Ford's sales skid of 12% in March compared to the same time a year ago was “like a cold shower,” portending a “damn hard” second quarter for auto sales, he says.