Ford's Swipe At Toyota Sounds "Desperate"

Posted by: David Kiley on January 5, 2006

MarkFields_b4_a.jpg

Ford Motor Co. President of the Americas Mark Fields (pictured above)gave a speech at The Greater Los Angeles Auto Show on Jan 4 in which he laid out some ideas about focusing Ford’s marketing and brand images. Most of it made sense, and seemed like a breath of fresh air from a company long steeped in sales and finance executives who pay lip service to marketing.

But then there was this passage from the speech:

“Many brands want to be American. However, there is no uniquely and consistently American brand in the auto industry. Not yet. It’s interesting that Toyota is desperately trying to cast itself as an American brand. Toyota is trying to be American because they realize the market potential is huge.
And Toyota has scored points by investing in the U.S. But that doesn’t make it an American brand. In fact, our research shows, the qualities that draw customers to Toyota vehicles are Japanese qualities.
Again, I go back to the research that has validated our thinking at Ford. There remains a huge – and not yet fully realized – market for American cars in this country. It is waiting to be seized, consistently.
Of all the leading automakers, I believe Ford has the strongest legacy claim to be ‘America’s Car Company.’ In part, it’s because of where we’ve been. In terms of economic and social influence, there is no other company that’s had a greater impact on the lives of people in this country and in the 20th century than Ford.”

Memo to Mr. Fields: Trying to criticize Toyota for flexing its American corporate citizenship through corporate advertising is a dog that doesn’t hunt outside the Detroit rust-belt corridor. Toyota has built several plants in the U.S., and employs tens of thousands of white collar and blue collar workers. Okay, that’s not as many as Ford, but Toyota is in a hiring mode, while Ford is cutting tens of thousands of jobs to get payroll in line with a shrunken market share. Toyota advertises these facts so that people will be aware of the investments it is making in the U.S. And consumers are beyond caring what percentage of Toyota parts that go into U.S. assembled Toyotas are coming from Japanese suppliers.

There is nothing “desperate” about this. What sounds desperate is criticizing the corporate ad campaign of a company that has long surpassed Ford in selling the top family sedan—the Camry (and how did Ford let that happen?), outsells Ford’s minivan (we thought Ford was the master of the American family car) and is closing in fast on Ford’s overall market share.

In an otherwise refreshing speech, which addressed Ford’s long-standing problem of putting marketing and brand management on roughly the same plane as glove box procurement, this passage stuck out like a busted muffler at an outdoor church service.

Reader Comments

n.p.hadley

January 6, 2006 2:28 PM

Ford needs an complete overhaul. If the brand is not selling and the product is weak, it's time to repackage and sell it under a new name.
Ford has to ask itself 'why aren't my customers responding to our line?' Could it be a history of a perceived inferior product? I think so.
A name change and product revamp is in order.

bobm

January 6, 2006 9:44 PM

Could not agree more with David Kiley's reaction to Mr. Field's ridiculous comments about Toyota. It is scary to think that he represents Ford's marketing leadership. As if junk rated debt, unfunded pensions, and unwanted cars were not enough, add clueless marketing execs. Is it any wonder that Ford cannot compete with Toyota? Game, Set, Match.

LD71

January 7, 2006 11:23 AM

I agree that Ford should not be sniping at Toyota for 'trying to be American'. But Ford's premise is correct, Toyota's cars are prized in the US for being Japanese, i.e. high quality great designs.

And that is the key to Ford finding their way in the future. Too many pundits believe that marketing is all about advertising and spin; true marketing starts with product. Ford 'desperately' needs great products to be successful in the market. If they become ‘America’s Car Company’ through great products targeted to America's needs, they will succeed. If they try to take the old inventory and paint over it with Stars and Stripes, they will fail.

Tim Brynteson

January 11, 2006 6:24 PM

I don't see Fields comment as an attempt to criticize Toyota, more of an observation that Toyota's marketing itself as "American" may be a misplaced effort. If what attracts consumers to Toyota are precisely those attributes that seem uniquely "Japanese" e.g. sensible, understated, good value, etc. then trying to convince people that it is "American" is simply an uncharacteristic mistake for Toyota. I take that Mr. Fields believes there is a market for a company that can exploit and sell the "Americanness" of its brand. As a Ford dealer, I hope he is right.

Myron D. Stokes

January 25, 2006 8:09 PM

David:

Intriguing comments about Fields comments. As always, you make valid observations, but sometimes the deeper and more relevant implications of our current industrial state of affairs tend to exceed our intellectual grasp.

Most Americans have difficulty understanding the reality of economic war and that is precisely what we find ourselves in. EW is a deliberate strategy crafted by a given government designed to create trade policies and provide financial resources supportive of its own industry and detrimental to industry within the target country.

As Sun Tzu said in essence: "Economic war is always waged first". The oftentimes predatory competitive strategies implemented by the industries of other countries with the full support of their governments are enhanced by the open market policies of this country. Policies, mind you, that the rest of the world views as naive if not irresponsible.

Be that as it may, they will exploit such policies ruthlessly, as long as they exist.

For all that Toyota and other offshores have done in making themselves part of the American economic "fabric" -- and they have succeeded brilliantly with long term well executed strategies -- they are not, as Fields correctly observes, American companies.

Sometime ago in a discussion with DaimlerChrysler Chief Economist Van Jolisant, Dr.Dieter Zetsche and Wolfgang Bernard, the question was how DCX could not be considered an American car company. Afterall, they employed 100,000 US workers. The response was that two questions must be answered so as to add clarity to the conversation: One, "At the end of the day, where does the money go?" and two, "In a time of war (and unfortunately, humans have still not learned to stop killing each other)with whom and where do your loyalties lie?"

The point was made somewhat.

What must be understood is that a country must preserve, if not jealously guard, its own industrial base. That, it seems, is a battle we are losing, driven in part by the demands of a shortsighted Wall Street whose metrics do not allow or acknowledge the need for such. Instead, there is the constant demand that GM, Ford, Delphi, Boeing and other firms that constitute the core of the base, meet their "fiduciary responsibility" with mantra-esque repetitiveness -- even if it means the massive offshoring of crucial manufacturing jobs.

Bear in mind also that the loss of such jobs, at the moment 84,000 of them once GM, Ford and Delphi meet their announced targets, comes with a price... a very high price. When Keynesian economic multipliers are applied, whether we use the Department of Commerce assigned number of 5-7 associated positions or the 9.7 positions some economists contend are eliminated concommitant with single production job loss, we are looking at upwards of 1,000,000 major wage earners gone from the economy within 18 months.

The question is, can the economy sustain that kind of hit? Answer: No. Moreover, people without jobs will not buy cars or homes, and those with jobs will be too shell-shocked and unnerved to buy no matter how relatively inexpensive cars produced offshore by low wage earners may become.

Economics 101.

What should become clear is that this country will not survive as a consumer/service economy as some claim is possible. Indeed, the country that produces nothing soon loses its sovereign right to exist, because as a colleague once said "economic security (as derived from a strong manufacturing base) is national security."

In closing, I'd like to suggest consideration of three analyses on our site www.emotionreports.com; 1. Super-Globalism: Strategies For Maintaining a Robust Industrial Base Through Technological, Policy and Process Improvement; 2. "Renault/Ford?" and 3. "The Japanese Exodus: Japan Firms Quietly Leaving China".

It goes without saying that we are at a pivotal time in this country's history, and unless clear and decisive action is taken to stop the transfer of wealth and technological know-how to other countries, the lifestyle that we've come to know and expect, will cease to exist.

Be well, David.

Best and cheers,
Myron

Myron D. Stokes

January 25, 2006 8:59 PM

David:

Intriguing comments about Fields comments. As always, you make valid observations, but sometimes the deeper and more relevant implications of our current industrial state of affairs tend to exceed our intellectual grasp.

Most Americans have difficulty understanding the reality of economic war and that is precisely what we find ourselves in. EW is a deliberate strategy crafted by a given government designed to create trade policies and provide financial resources supportive of its own industry and detrimental to industry within the target country.

As Sun Tzu said in essence: "Economic war is always waged first". The oftentimes predatory competitive strategies implemented by the industries of other countries with the full support of their governments are enhanced by the open market policies of this country. Policies, mind you, that the rest of the world views as naive if not irresponsible.

Be that as it may, they will exploit such policies ruthlessly, as long as they exist.

For all that Toyota and other offshores have done in making themselves part of the American economic "fabric" -- and they have succeeded brilliantly with long term well executed strategies -- they are not, as Fields correctly observes, American companies.


Sometime ago in a discussion with DaimlerChrysler Chief Economist Van Jolisant, Dr.Dieter Zetsche and Wolfgang Bernard, the question was how DCX could not be considered an American car company. Afterall, they employed 100,000 US workers. The response was that two questions must be answered so as to add clarity to the conversation: One, "At the end of the day, where does the money go?" and two, "In a time of war (and unfortunately, humans have still not learned to stop killing each other) with whom and where do your loyalties lie?"

The point was made somewhat.

What must be understood is that a country must preserve, if not jealously guard, its own industrial base. That, it seems, is a battle we are losing, driven in part by the demands of a shortsighted Wall Street whose metrics do not allow or acknowledge the need for such. Instead, there is the constant demand that GM, Ford, Delphi, Boeing and other firms that constitute the core of the base, meet their "fiduciary responsibility" with mantra-esque repetitiveness -- even if it means the massive offshoring of crucial manufacturing jobs.

Bear in mind also that the loss of such jobs, at the moment 84,000 of them once GM, Ford and Delphi meet their announced targets, comes with a price... a very high price. When Keynesian economic multipliers are applied, whether we use the Department of Commerce assigned number of 5-7 associated positions or the 9.7 positions some economists contend are eliminated concomitant with single production job loss, we are looking at upwards of 1,000,000 major wage earners gone from the economy within 18 months.

The question is, can the economy sustain that kind of hit? Answer: No. Moreover, people without jobs will not buy cars or homes, and those with jobs will be too shell-shocked and unnerved to buy no matter how relatively inexpensive cars produced offshore by low wage earners may become.

Economics 101.

What should become clear is that this country will not survive as a consumer/service economy as some claim is possible. Indeed, the country that produces nothing soon loses its sovereign right to exist, because as a colleague once said "economic security (as derived from a strong manufacturing base) is national security."

In closing, I'd like to suggest consideration of three analyses on our site www.emotionreports.com; 1. Super-Globalism: Strategies For Maintaining a Robust Industrial Base Through Technological, Policy and Process Improvement; 2. "Renault/Ford?" and 3. "The Japanese Exodus: Japan Firms Quietly Leaving China".

It goes without saying that we are at a pivotal time in this country's history, and unless clear and decisive action is taken to stop the transfer of wealth and technological know-how to other countries, the lifestyle that we've come to know and expect, will cease to exist.

Be well, David.

Best and cheers,
Myron

Myron D. Stokes
Publisher,
eMOTION!REPORTS.com

Joe

January 27, 2006 2:31 AM

Ford is aiming at toyota's jugler, aiming at it but the knife might not sharp enough, but its still gonna leave a blow. Ford is working on new products, and this isnt just some sheet metal reworking or a new name for the same car deal.

Here is what ford plans to do with lincoln:

The lexus LS430 and GS430 are pretty darn good cars that are far superior to the lincoln town car for performance, features and other things. The current town car is a gloated-over crown victoria.
So ford plans to build a true lexus hunter, the all new Lincoln Mk S. Built with a 4.4 litre 315hp v8 equiped with a 6 speed automatic coupled to a computer controled awd system. This is just the guts of it, and the guts are superior to that of the LS430 and GS430, more power, equivlant or better gas mileage(not that it is a big deal for a 40+K car market), all wheel drive compared to lexus's rwd.

The car is also bold in look, just google the Mk S and look at it, it combines licoln classic interior ques with modern acura/bmw like edge. The car's interior features are somewhat superior to lexus. And most of all the car will be priced under the LS430 and GS430. One example of lincoln having an edge over lexus is, lexus has these cool headlights that turn around turns, as seen on the commerical with the deer. Ford made it simpler and more reliable by having side facing LED lights that simply turn on and off when the car turns. This is far more efficient and reliable than the lexus motorized overly complicated and prone to breakage. All in all the car is going to be superior but it'll take time to get lincoln's image back.

the ES330 is another car that lincoln is gunning after.

The zephyr is a cheaper priced car that offers supperior hp and performance characteristics that will only grow with the addition of the 3.5 v6, awd, and future hybrid versions. The lincoln also has similiar features.

the MkX will be the wolf that kills the RX330 (provided people get debrainwashed from this mystification of lexus being the best). The MkX is CUV like the RX330, but offers superior gas mileage, hp, torque, drivetrain (6speed auto), and a newer look.

All in all these cars logicaly should beat lexus, especially since they are a new bold look, and lexus doesnt really stand out, they just look like rebadged toyotas in my oppinion, and they aren't anything special. For the money i'd buy a cadillacc or one of these new lincolns.

Ford fusion when priced and compared online, i found that for 21 grand i could get essentially the same options and features with a 5 speed automatic 4 cylander as a 26k dollar camry with 5 speed manual and 4cylander. The fusion doesnt blend in like the camry, its bold, stylish and something htat i wouldnt feel like a grandma driving. It also delivers superior performance.

Ford has a winning strategy that is going to unleash, its death might be poor marketing. But if ford can pull off marketing with these products and hte american public regains trust in ford it will be a big blow to toyota.

Bruno Valenti

October 3, 2006 8:59 PM

Out of the last 6 cars I have owned, one was a foreign car. A Honda Accord. And what a wonderful car it was, it ran well, great gas mileage and very dependable. It ran like a clock. Throughout the four years of ownership, I also owned a Ford Taurus. (1996 for both years). I was extremely happy with both cars. The time came to trade one of my family cars up to an SUV. I shopped around and finally decided between a Honda Pilot or the New 2002 Explorer. (Post Rollover Days).
I decided on the Ford. Reason. 9/11. I felt that although Ford was also developing vehicles and parts out of our country, it was still an American brand. And when it came time to trade the vehicle in for the Explorer, I gave up the Honda. Why? Security. Although the Accord ran quieter than the Taurus and had slightly bettergas mileage, it was a heavier , safer more comfortable car.I also enjoy doing maintenance on my vehicles. The Ford parts were simpler, and easier to access. Especially cost. I admire what both Toyota nad Honda are doing. Very impressive. Hats off to the engineering teams for creating more efficient vehicles. Although a loyal Ford customer, the Big Three, did this to themselves. When you do need to bring your car in for service, most places talk down to you, and are very negative about their repairs. Their past history has disappointed many people into buying other barnds. Alas, the time came to trade in my Taurus for a new vehicle. It made it to 180,000 miles. Only problems, a cat converter going bad and a pinhole in my radiator. That was it, not bad for an American car. And still as tight as it was in 1996. My choices, the Tundra, Ridgeline (Which I thought was a soda can on wheels) or a F-150. I went with the F-150. Why, simple , reliable, design. A tight surdy vehicle. Gas mileage isn't the best, but believe it or not, not the worst. My 4.6 liter V-8 gets 16-17 city, 19-20 on the highway. Not bad for a pretty heavy vehicle. Ford needs to get back in the game with "Quality as Job 1". and emphasize it. Stand behind the product by offeringa 7 year one hundred thousand mileage warranty. I think their vehicles can make it with little cost to the company. The key with Ford is to emphasize and stand behind the positives in their company. Not try to hide behind the American flag. Did they forget we live in a society which promotes capitalism? Embrace the competition, Applaud them for giving American workers jobs. Honesty, and a better American product will overshadow Foreign barands, We are doing it already with certain models. It will take time, but maybe our brands will bring back the faith and security we want in our automotive investment. Definitely not by cheapshots at innovative companies.

Bruno Valenti

October 3, 2006 9:10 PM

Out of the last 6 cars I have owned, one was a foreign car. A Honda Accord. And what a wonderful car it was, it ran well, great gas mileage and very dependable. It ran like a clock. Throughout the four years of ownership, I also owned a Ford Taurus. (1996 for both years). I was extremely happy with both cars.

The time came to trade one of my family cars up to an SUV. I shopped around and finally decided between a Honda Pilot or the New 2002 Explorer. (Post Rollover Days). I decided on the Ford. Reason. 9/11. I felt that although Ford was also developing vehicles and parts out of our country, it was still an American brand. We needed to get money back in our economy. I felt that was the least we can do as a family to help the economy.

When it came time to trade the vehicle in for the Explorer, I gave up the Honda. Why? Security. Although the Accord ran quieter than the Taurus and had slightly better gas mileage, it was a heavier , safer more comfortable car. I traded in the Accord and never looked back. As a volunteer fireman, and a police officer, I have encountered many accidents involving foreign cars. There is something you are giving up with Japenese cars. The steel is thinner , less supportive in moter vehicle accidents. I also enjoy doing maintenance on my vehicles. The Ford parts were simpler, and easier to access. Cost was another factor regarding parts.

I admire what both Toyota nad Honda are doing. Very impressive. Hats off to the engineering teams for creating more efficient vehicles. Although a loyal Ford customer, the Big Three, did this to themselves. When you do need to bring your car in for service, most places talk down to you, and are very negative about their repairs. You never walk out of their dealerships with the less costing repair. Coincidence? I think not. Their past history has disappointed many people into buying other barnds.

Alas, the time came to trade in my Taurus for a new vehicle. It made it to 180,000 miles. Only reported problems, a cat converter going bad and a pinhole in my radiator. That was it, not bad for an American car. And still as tight as it was in 1996. My choices, the Tundra, Ridgeline (Which I thought was a soda can on wheels) or a F-150. I went with the F-150. Why? simple , reliable, design. A tight sturdy vehicle. Gas mileage isn't the best, but believe it or not, not the worst. My 4.6 liter V-8 gets 16-17 city, 19-20 on the highway. Not bad for a pretty heavy vehicle. (Although I am trying to figure out how my expolorer gets the same mileage with less weight and a smaller engine.)Ford needs to get back in the game with "Quality as Job 1". and emphasize it. Stand behind the product by offering a 7 year one hundred thousand mileage warranty. I think their vehicles can make it with little cost to the company. The key with Ford is to emphasize and stand behind the positives in their company. Not try to hide behind the American flag. Did they forget we live in a society which promotes capitalism? Embrace the competition, Applaud them for giving American workers jobs. Honesty, and a better American product will overshadow Foreign barands, We are doing it already with certain models. It will take time, but maybe our brands will bring back the faith and security we want in our automotive investment. Definitely not by cheapshots at innovative companies.

Mac

November 30, 2006 1:38 PM

I've tried, really tried to buy American cars all of my long life. My last disappointment was a 1997 Ford Expedition bought new and taken back to the dealer six times in the first six months. The major problems were things falling off, misaligned or otherwise falling apart due to poor design and/or construction. After forking over $40k for the POS, I'd had enough. I bought a Toyota 4-Runner which my wife still has. After 180,000 miles, it has only been back to the dealer for scheduled maintenance, not a single problem. In 2001, I got a Tundra, 140,000 miles now and same excellent results. My daughters bought new Celicas and Corollas and the same story. No disappointments, NONE. Contrast this with my brother-in-law who has gone through three Ford pickups in about the same period, one with a vibration at 35 mph they couldn't cure, another with stuff falling off and bad suspension and a third that just is all beat up and falling apart after 70,000 miles. Maybe instead of cutting corners and reducing the quality of every single component in a vehicle to maximize profits, Ford should design it for 250,000 miles of trouble free operation like a Toyota. I've done my part over way too many years to support the American car companies, but they haven't done thier job, not by a long shot.

I'll get off my soap box now.

n mcvey

December 8, 2006 3:59 PM

i don't see mark feilds being with ford much longer.he's part of the problem and not the answer.from a junk yard dog and stakeholder.

Daily_Mutilation

January 4, 2007 10:26 PM

Wow, everybody loves Toyota no matter what, huh? No matter what they do it's great because you can go 250,000 miles on a Camry. I think it's perfectly legitimate for American companies to point out that there are costs to buying foreign, socially and economically. Sure, Toyota has some U.S. plants, but think about the content of the cars they build. How much benefits this country? I'm not saying you shouldn't or can't buy a Japanese car if you perceive the quality is better. But don't delude yourself into believing there aren't costs to that decision. Fields is right to point them out. If this wasn't an issue, why would Toyota even care about trying to become "more American" (truck plant in Texas, stroking the NASCAR nuts, etc.)?

Toyota Employee

January 6, 2007 2:40 PM

LOL, Yea i have to agree that people have this idea of american cars being so inferior to the japanese. It is 90% in your head what you really want to have and enjoy. For example MY 1997 Ford Expedition just turned 201,000 right before christmas and i have had nothing but good experiences with it. Plus my 5.4L enging and bigger vehicle gets better MPG than the same year LandCruiser with a 4.5 straight 6 eng. ? my Son still drives my 1987 Ford Tempo AWD with over 200k on it and is still reliable All WHeel Drive transportation. Yes every company has problems with certain things but i cannot stand how toyota covers up "RECALLS" with the term "Service Campaign" HAha what a joke. They will not cover a "Campaign" after the 36,000 3 year warrenty either. I have 3 entire ISLE's in our dealership dedicated to toyoya RECALLS from crank sensors in echo's to ball joints in ALL 2002 to 2005 4runners, tundras, tacomas, sequoias. Steering rods that snap in half and your vehicle will not even roll for the 1989 to 1995 ALL trucks and T100's produced in thoses years. Oh and don't mention the Massive HEAD GASKET recall of the century. 3.0 v6 and 3.4 v6 engines from 1988 to 1997 had sure failing engines to back up their fine pickup's and 4-runners oh and tacoma's, t100's. Ok enought whining, all i'm saying it toyota has JUST as many if not more "hidden" problems than anyone else with product. People need to have open minds while shopping. A

Will

June 20, 2008 11:29 PM

wow, I think the toyota employee said it right...my fords all have over 200,000 miles and no problems, however all mechanical things break, look at the sapce shuttle even, multi-million dollar machine that can still break, it is all perception, american car makers still employee more than anyone else in the states, visit this web page:

http://www.levelfieldinstitute.org/

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