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NEW YORK — Edmunds.com recently unveiled its first-ever Marketing Breakthrough Award at the New York International Auto Show and honored Ford, praising the automaker for its skillful marketing that backed up strong new products and helped to significantly bolster the brand's image.

"Ford's image has improved by leaps and bounds in the past year because the company has supported good new products with deft marketing," said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive officer of Edmunds.com.  

Edmunds.com explained that the award will be given each year to a vehicle, company or activity that generates a great deal of "buzz," demonstrates outside-the-box thinking or improves the perception and/or consumer consideration for a brand.

Ford, specifically, was chosen based on a few "image-enhancing" strategies.

For one, Edmunds.com said Ford spread the word about its lineup by having customers share their experiences of driving the models.

Ford also did a good job at separating itself from Chrysler and General Motors, who received federal bailout money, an idea on which many consumers were sour, according to Edmunds.com.

Runners-up in the inaugural award were Hyundai, which was lauded for its Assurance Program that lent a hand to consumers in a downtrodden economy, and the U.S. government for its CARS program that spurred roughly 125,000 new-vehicle sales and generated significant buzz.