Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ford as the Biblical Prodigal Son P.1

Hello Bandwagon, it's us, Ford Motor Company.

Today I was listening to NPR on my drive to campus. I stopped faithfully listening to NPR in December when they went two weeks straight talking only about the Big 3 auto bailout. A girl can only take so much outrage before tuning out. It's called avoidance, and it's a proven effect of mass media.

Today on NPR they were discussing, surprise, more auto industry news. The announcers were cheerily discussing the new deal between Ford and Johnson Controls in which JCI will produce batteries for Ford's new hybrid Escape. The announcers were talking about this as if it were the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I couldn't help but wonder (to borrow the rhetoric of our friend, Carrie Bradshaw) why everyone is celebrating Ford's poor foresight. Because celebrating Ford finally jumping on the hybrid bandwagon is just that - poor foresight on the part of Ford management. Only now, in the midst of a recession and in staring bankruptcy in the face, is Ford finally producing cars for the future.

Nevermind that hybrid technology has been in existence for the past couple of decades. Nevermind that Toyota is killing in market share for hybrid cars because they've been perfecting their technology for the past 10 years. This never mattered to Ford before; they simply continued producing their Escapes and F150's. Now Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president, stated in the NPR interview, "We are at the point where we need to work with the battery supply base, the utility industry and the government in order to find ways to make electrified vehicles an affordable proposition for consumers."

No, Ford, had you enough foresight and competitive intelligence you would've realized that you were at that point a decade ago. Why don't you just make it easier on yourselves this late in the game and borrow from Toyota's history. Work with the government to provide a tax incentive for those who purchase your hybrid vehicles. It's been done before (yes, I am the recipient of the Toyota tax incentive), and it'll be easy to copy the legslation for you. All you need to do is open it in Microsoft Word and use the "replace all" function to change all mentions of "Toyota" to "Ford." Your welcome.


Scott Monty said...

I'm not sure where to start here, Ms. Q. Ford is not "finally jumping on the bandwagon," as you state.

You're clearly unaware that Ford launched the first hybrid of any U.S. automaker in 2004, the Ford Escape Hybrid. And the Escape is currently the most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet and named the Escape the "greenest" SUV.

We announced the Mercury Milan & Ford Fusion hybrids at the L.A. Auto Show last fall, and the Fusion has since been EPA-certified at 41 mpg, which is more than 6 mpg better than the Toyota Camry hybrid, its nearest competitor. And that hybrid technology is all 100% Ford-built.

We've had an agreement with California Edison for the last 3 years, where they've been testing our plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEV); the announcement yesterday reflected an expansion of that program. We'll be debuting a battery electric vehicle (BEV) in 2011.

Ford has been innovating for a long time, both on its own and with partners. The latest announcement shows that we're continuing to do so, and in a comprehensive way to address electrification of the auto industry - with utility and infrastructure partners.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Toyota continues to produce its SUVs and trucks, a fact that many people seem to conveniently forget.

Scott Monty
Global Digital Communications
Ford Motor Company

Ms. Quarter said...

Thank you for replying Mr. Monty.

Crap, I guess this means I have to stop blogging about things about which I have little knowledge, yet much opinion.

I guess my ultimate criticism of U.S. automakers is that fuel efficiency should've been a priority (maybe not the first, but certainly on the radar) before the turn of the century. But that's just the environmentalist part of my personality speaking, and I know there are many more factors that go into product innovation and design.

It just seems wrong that, at least when I was in the market for a new car, U.S. automakers didn't have a competitive solution to what I was looking for, and instead were putting out commercials like this: Then the Big 3 ask for a tax payer bailout to cover losses for what were, in some small part (in my opinion), poor management decisions (over production, dealer cannibalization, etc).

I do want to note that I don't begrudge the Big 3 their bailout, because the common man on the production line, or heck, even middle management, should not be made to suffer. I do, however, begrudge executive management their bonuses and astronomical salaries.

Scott Monty said...

Sorry to have to correct you again, but Ford did not receive any government loans. Please don't lump us in with GM & Chrysler.

While I understand your concern about too much focus on larger vehicles, I can assure you that we focused on what the market was demanding (the very thing that people are urging automakers to do now). The reason we aired an ad for the Ford F-150 is because more than 50% of F-150 owners use their trucks for work. And it also happens to be the highest-selling vehicle in America.

One final note about bonuses: there were no bonuses granted - to anyone - at Ford in 2008, nor will there be any granted in 2009. We're serious about the transformation plan that we started over 2 years ago.

I'd invite you to read about our plan at The Ford Story.


Ms. Quarter said...

Because I seem to be inadequate and inarticulate in expressing my opinions, I will link to this story in the Harvard Law Record, which better sums up my feelings about the auto bailout in general.

Also, yes, I now realize that Ford has not received nor requested any bailout loans. I'm still unclear as to why they were part of the group that first approached Congress about the bailout in the first place. Solidarity?

Though I can't tell you how big a fan I am of Alan Mullaly for driving to Washington for the hearings.