Ford, Kylie ka Out in Paris
PARIS, Sept 26, 2002 Tom Brown reporting for Reuters said that Ford Motor Co. has been on anything but a roll lately, but its struggles to implement a massive belt-tightening plan were hardly on display at the Paris auto show this week.
The world's second-largest automaker cut a lavish image at the show, splashing out on massive press party on Wednesday night and seeing to it that pop diva Kylie Minogue -- a big draw in Europe and her native Australia -- was on hand to unveil the company's new Streetka European-style roadster.
At times it almost seemed like Ford, which went from a profit of $7.24 billion in 1999 and $3.47 billion in 2000, was no longer the company that posted a stunning $5.45 billion loss last year.
Minogue's appearance on behalf of Ford on Thursday was one of the highlights of the Paris Motor Show, where automakers from around the globe showed off their latest models and glimmering sheet metal in the industrial world's "Pret a Porter."
In fact, she was the biggest personality from "down under" to grace a Ford event since Lebanese-born Australian Jacques Nasser was ousted as the company's chief executive in October last year.
The artist, on the final leg of a European tour sponsored by Ford, did not sing as she slowly pulled back a sheet covering the body of a two-seater convertible Streetka to a pulsating beat.
"She's very big over here," Ford Europe's Chairman and Chief Executive David Thursfield told one older U.S. reporter, who wasn't quite sure who Minogue was.
Thursfield and the rest of the onwatchers than proceeded to watch Minogue, whose latest hit "Fever" has sold about 5 million copies worldwide, scrawled her signature across the hood of a Streetka destined, perhaps, to a collector's edition of the curvaceous car.
"It's very much kind of small and elegant," Ford spokesman Paul Harrison said of the Streetka. "And she (Minogue) is very much that kind of person."
The company pulled all the stops at a party in a made-over warehouse for hundreds of journalists and other guests, many of them greeted by the cigar-chomping Thursfield and Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Ford Jr.
Rivers of fine wines and liquor flowed as scores of young waitresses -- all looking as if they had been plucked from the pages of Paris Match or Vogue -- offered culinary delights.
"Pretty girls aren't that expensive really, so long as you keep them happy, one Ford executive said, when asked about the cost of Ford's Paris Motor Show blowout.
He did not elaborate. But one of the waitreses working the event, a self-described moedel and part-time actress, complained that she had only been paid about $130 for the 10-hour assignment.
Ford, meanwhile, declined to comment on the cost of the affair or on how much it spent sponsoring Minogue's European tour.
"We're just trying to demonstrate that there is still a lot of pride left in the brand," said Ford Europe spokesman Neil Golightly.
Ford wasn't the only automaker having a good time at the biannual Paris show, one of the biggest perks for car executives, in a city whose architectural beauty outshines anything on wheels.
"There are many challenging parts to running an auto business, General Motors Corp chief executive Rick Wagoner said on Thursday. "Coming to Paris for the show is not one of them."
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....