It's amazing how Ford US's problems miror ours (performance wise, not quality or safety wise). Sounds like a good theme to me.. :D
"Total Performance" - A Ford Theme In Need Of A Comeback.
Detroit. It's fact of life in the PR
business that when things start going against you, it comes in waves. And once the "buzz" starts heading downhill, there's no amount of heartfelt sincerity or public mea culpas that can turn the negative tide or keep it from gaining momentum. It's definitely Ford's turn in the barrel right this very minute, and how they handle the next few days and weeks will literally determine their fortunes for at least the next three years - if not longer. That's a pretty tall order for any corporation to deal with, but the crucial and precarious nature of Ford's current situation cannot be overestimated.
We'll stay out of the speculation about CEO Jacques Nasser's standing inside the company for now, but suffice to say, there will be management changes to spread the power out a little more and - how shall we say it - redistribute the flow of information and ideas. And yes, William Clay Ford Jr. will be taking a more active role in the day-to-day operations of the company.
That being said, let's move on...
Playing the "woulda-coulda-shoulda" game right now won't do The Ford Motor Company one bit of good. They're in this tire mess up to their eyeballs, and they're going to have to hang tough and fight their way out of it with the least amount of damage to their reputation as possible. That means they're going to have to take some massive body blows to their image in the process, but they have no choice but to ride it out, making as many positive points along the way as they can.
But there are other concerns for Ford that may be as serious, if not more so, than what's going on in Washington.
And here, we humbly submit, are just a few of them:
1. Quality. Ford cannot afford one more negative quality report about any of its products. In this media intensive environment, it doesn't take long for street "buzz" to turn into the accepted gut-level (albeit reactionary) "reality." Ford is out of goodwill chits on this one, and they are operating in a zero-defect world right now with no tolerance for screw-ups. And when they do have good quality news, they better make sure everyone on the planet damn well knows about it.
2. Safety. Yes, this is the obvious one, but in this case it goes beyond the Explorer. Unwarranted and outside the government guidelines or not, the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety's "off-set" 40-M.P.H. barrier tests for pickup trucks shown on NBC's Dateline were as ugly as can be - and the Ford F-150 videos were by far the ugliest. Even though the F-150 just passed the Government's safety rating (frontal collision at a lower speed) with flying colors, the lingering impact of that NBC video footage will haunt Ford for a long time to come. Ford has to take an intensive look at everything they're doing with regard to safety, and if they have to go above and beyond the regulations to make a "statement" - then now is the time to do so. And when they have something substantive and positive to talk about, they have to step up the public messages and showcase their commitment to safety.
3. Product. Last but not least, and in our book still the most important part of this whole equation, Ford has to bear down hard on the products that they're bringing to market to make them as desirable and as class-leading as they possibly can. Ford has a propensity (like GM) of showing new products to the public too soon and then taking far too long to get them to market. The new Thunderbird is a classic example of too much hype too soon, and even though Ford has banked orders for every one they can build for the next 18 months or so, they should be working overtime right now on the future variants of the T-Bird. They only have to look as far as VW (New Beetle) and Chrysler (PT Cruiser) to see how it's not done. Hopefully, they have learned something from those two glaring examples. The SVT Focus falls into the same category. Don't show it and tease it almost a year before intro - just get the thing ready and get it out. Ford has a whole stream of passenger cars and trucks that are due for everything from minor facelifts to major redesigns, and now is the time for them to dig deep and make sure every last one of them not only has a reason for being - but that they are noteworthy additions to their product mix. If they find that some of them are just placeholders in their advance dealer ordering guides, then they either have to fix them or drop them. Smoke and mirrors used to work in this business, but those days are over.
It’s interesting, but Ford had an outstanding ad/marketing theme in the ‘60s revolving around the words “Total Performance.” Times admittedly were different back then, because Ford was involved in virtually every major racing series in the world: International sports car racing with the Cobra and the GT 40, SCCA national racing with the Cobra and the GT-350 Mustang, NASCAR racing with several elite teams and of course, Indianapolis, thanks to the efforts of Dan Gurney. Not to mention all the other efforts in Trans Am, drag racing and even rallying. And this was even before they got involved in the Cosworth F1 engine program. In October, Ford officially celebrates the 100th Anniversary of its involvement in racing with a must-attend celebration in Dearborn. Every major driver and personality who has ever been involved in a Ford racing program over the years will be there, because it’s certainly a milestone worth celebrating - and a reminder of the kind of commitment that drove The Ford Motor Company to succeed at the highest levels of competition in the past.
Some people scoff at the suggestion that a theme like that could work for Ford today, but we disagree. If anything, “Total Performance” is more alive and on-target as a concept today than it was back then. When you factor everything needed into the equation to bring a modern car or truck to market - you’re talking about Design, Technology, Engineering, Quality, Safety, Environmental concerns and Performance. All of these ingredients must come together in such a way as to form a cohesive and, most important, a desirable whole. And that takes the kind of commitment, focus and discipline that Ford demonstrated time and time again in its glorious racing past.
That’s Total Performance in our book - and as far as we’re concerned, it’s exactly what Ford needs right this very minute.
Thanks for listening, see you next Wednesday.
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