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November 02, 2005

Bill Ford's Selling White Bread Turkey Sandwiches

David Kiley

It took me a few days to catch up with the new corporate ad campaign from Ford Motor Co. starring chairman and CEO Bill Ford. But I don’t feel like a missed anything. You haven’t either if you haven’t seen them yet.

In the ads, Bill Ford, the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford who took control of the company in October 2001, casually sits on a stool in a design studio and talks about the company's commitment to "driving innovation.” In fact, the vanilla theme of the campaign is “Driving American Innovation.” Apparently, some other company had the copyrights to “Driving A New American Paradigm.”

The first problem with the ads is that any company selling a product or service could have claimed this line. If the line can relate to any company then why spend hard earned money on it. Paging the copywriters! Who wrote this? Bill’s chauffer?

Bill Ford talks about Ford’s environmentally friendly vehicles that are powered by hybrid gasoline-electric engines and those that can run on ethanol. Ethanol is made from grain, and hardly any stations sell it. Ford and other manufacturers have engineered cars to run scarce ethanol in large part so they can bank government credits for doing so that makes it easier to sell more gas guzzler SUVs. Ford says he is "dramatically ramping up" that commitment to get "this country less dependent upon foreign oil."

In the ads, we see scenes such as: The exterior of the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn at dusk; a man pulling a flat of flowers from the back of a hybrid Ford Escape SUV; workers loading bales of hay into the bed of a Ford pickup; families traveling around town in the Escape; a multicultural group of young Ford employees at a drawing table. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Chatter from Ford insiders in recent months informs me that the company has been dithering over a communications strategy: To be known as the greenest carmaker in Detroit? Or somehow get the idea across that the standards of safety in design established by Volvo are being adopted by all of Ford. For those of you who don’t know, Ford owns Volvo.

Frankly, I thought the two strategies working together would have been a good move, supported by a bold communications campaign. But while Ford flicks at the Volvo strategy in some of the ads—vaguely linking Volvo’s safety track record with Ford--he didn’t go all the way. Ford bean-counters told him that Ford could not afford to let Volvo’s safety engineers and designers set the engineering standards for the whole company. It would be too expensive. Ford Explorer engineers, for example, could not be held accountable to adopt the roof strength and rollover standards of the Volvo XC90.

Too bad, for such a move would have shown genuine leadership. Imagine: every engineer and purchasing executive in the company would be on the same page about a marketing and brand direction. So, we are left with Ford being an “innovation driven” company, and aspiring to be the greenest company in Detroit. Being the greenest company in Detroit is like marketing yourself as the best woman lawyer to ever graduate from a Texas law school.

03:39 PM

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Thank you Mr. Ford for doing some more commercials.

Maybe 2002 went over better because there was no

script. You always do best that way. I'm glad you

took the advice of the SH's. I would have said the

same thing had I been there. A company needs to

have a face, especially when the old commercials

hawk being a part of the family. Personally I own

3 Fords and a Mercury. I'd buy any Ford product,

but I just don't need a new one quite yet. To heck

with hybrids and so called warming planet. WE are in

for another ice age!

Posted by: Jett Rink at November 3, 2005 12:45 PM

What Ford needs to do is stop talking and start making progress.

Ford cars do not deliver good value to consumers. I am on my second Ford product and it will be the last. I expect cars to last longer than 5 years. A car that cost me over $30k is now worth less than $10k. This is because Ford products do not have a quality reputation.

I'm tired of taking one beating after another with automakers. Ford should spend a little more money building quality products that offer long term values instead of nice commercials that attempt to appeal to leery consumers.

Posted by: Wes at November 7, 2005 02:59 PM

Ford should concentrate less on advertisements and more on creating cars with solid, long term value.

The past two cars I've purchased new have been Ford products and they will be the last. Both had problems after reaching 50,000 miles. Nothing serious, just problems with idle, starting, etc. Problems that I did not have with a three previous GM products after 150,000 miles each. Quite frankly, both of the Ford cars feel like toys that I should disassemble and throw away in the trash. Talking with fellow Ford owner friends shows my problems are not uncommon.

Until Bill Ford himself stops talking and starts building quality products (remember "quality is job #1"?) I consider all the statements he makes to be hogwash. Why should I care if the car doesn't pollute if its a piece of junk long before it's paid off? (even if it still runs, the resale value of next to nothing shows the market belives it's a piece of junk)

Posted by: Wes at November 9, 2005 03:29 PM

I mostly agree... I've owned two Fords and both stranded me on the NY State Thruway. Both. The 1986 Taurus in particularly cost me over $6k for many repairs during the four years I owned it. Both Fords were way too expensive, as they needed constant repair.

Ford products are mostly not trustworthy, in my opinion.

When they released the Pinto, for example, back in the beginning of the 1970s, they didn't give a hoot about safety. Almost 400 people dead from immolation or were seriously burned all by exploding Pinto gas tanks all from being hit, in the rear. Over two decades later, Ford then "gives" us the Crown Victoria. Their Crown Victoria -just like the Pinto- kills 25 police officers from exploding gas tanks when hit, in the rear. Ford's repeated low regard for human life is appalling, besides a case study in corporate stupidity, maybe avarice too.

If I was running Ford I would "clean house". Then I would hire all new officers and management all engineers especially. I would further require, in the effort to seriously revitalize this miserable, rank failure of a car company, every officer and all of management to entirely embrace, study and adopt the management culture of Toyota Motor Corporation. (Starting in 1950, Toyota was introduced to and then fully studied with and learned, such a culture, from a very famous, critically thinking American philosopher, scientist and teacher.)

Posted by: Rmarani at December 12, 2005 01:49 AM

Curious. My family has driven predominantly Fords for generations. I currently drive a Mercury with 150,000 miles on it and it still gets along just fine. The only one I ever got rid of before 100,000 miles was at 80,000 miles and then because it was a four seater and I needed a car with five seatbelts, not because the car wasn't reliable. The one Chevy I drove died ten minutes after the warranty expired. Even the dealer agreed the engine was defective, but GM didn't care. But then, it's always the dissatisfied customers that are the loudest.

Posted by: Greg at December 15, 2005 12:11 AM

Although I believe ALL American car companies should take stock and start delivering quality vehicles that are safe and efficient, I have to say, my '92 Taurus has over 300,000 miles on it and my husband still drives it every day. We typically put a couple of hundred in it every few months to keep it on the road and I highly doubt we'll ever get more than a few hundred dollars out of it. In fact we'll probably drive it to the junk yard one day. I guess in that sense, we've gotten our moneys worth out of it.

Posted by: Jodi at December 15, 2005 04:47 PM

I'm 15 and I think that Ford motor comapany is trying hard but not hard enough. The japanese auto makers have almost put our american auto makers in the tank. Every time someone buys a new foreign car the profits go straight to Japan china or korea. this fact is saying that we are ruining our own economy without the public ever knowing it. The people should know about it so they can stop it now before Japan takes over all business in the U.S.

Posted by: david spoor at April 13, 2006 09:35 AM

"Why should I care if the car doesn't pollute..."

C'mon. I'm no tree hugging, Bill Ford fan,

but you sound about as deep as a fraternity rush chairman here.

Posted by: Len Johnson at April 13, 2006 11:47 AM

Sorry Im a little late getting here but i was busy being told i am going to be out of a job in 2008. As far as quality is job one goes,dont believe it.We at Norfolk Assembly Plant have been told the same thing for years. On Feb 20th of this year the tune changed and we were told money wins over quality and they could teach anybody to build trucks.On Thursday April 13th we were told we will be closing in 2 years or less.Good for the company they say.What about the consumers? does Ford really care or are all they are worried about is the stock holders. Maybe the Japanese are alot smarter than we are.

Posted by: nelson rose at April 17, 2006 03:55 PM

Well, I own a 1996 Ford Explorer and it is has 299992 miles (yes, believe it) under it's belt. And I too drive it to work everyday. From Stockton to Lodi, California.

Posted by: Jake at June 3, 2006 02:15 AM

I've owned 2 Ford's in my life (You would have thought that I would have learned from the first time)They were pieces of (insert your own expletive). The first one ('74 Mustang) was constantly in the shop. I had to get rid of it because I couldn't keep up with the repair bills!!The second one ('87 Mustang)was no better. Despite my best preventative maintenance efforts, the engine block cracked @ $57,000 miles to join a host of other mechanical maladies the car was always suffering. I'm currently on my second Honda Accord. I've been driving my latest one ('95)for 11 years without one problem of consequence. I'm currently in the market for a new vehicle. Any guesses where my search will begin and end? I'd love to "Buy American". I just can't afford to.

Posted by: Lee at October 24, 2006 05:44 PM


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