PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. carmaker Ford has hired France's one-time First Lady Carla Bruni to star in a brand-promoting video in which she ditches her guitar for the testosterone-charged job of a male soccer team coach.
Ford France, seeking to counter the home ground advantage of Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen, reckons Bruni's improbable change of career will inspire equally bold decisions by French car buyers to stray from the fold, in its direction.
It is also taking a bet on the consumer-influencing power of Bruni. The marriage to Sarkozy of the singer and former model fueled the perception among many voters that he was an overly showy leader, known as "president bling bling" during his 2007-12 term.
Ford, whose 4.3 percent share of total car sales in France so far this year pales beside the 30 percent and 26 percent shares of PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault, says what counts is Bruni's reputation and versatility, not political affiliation.
"She's a woman who went from top model to singer and actress, and from champagne socialist to wife of a right-wing president," Fabrice Devanlay, Ford France's external relections director, told Reuters.
"Sure there's a risk, because she is marked by the political side of her marital status, but her international celebrity is an incredible driver for the visibility of our campaign."
(Writing by Brian Love; additional reporting by Gilles Guillaume and Laurence Frost; editing by Andrew Roche)