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Green Promises Felled Bill Ford, Industry Watchers

Green Promises Felled Bill Ford, Industry Watchers Say

Bill FordFrom BRANDWEEK
Green Promises Felled Ford, Industry Watchers Say
CEO and company face’s credibility was shot years ago.
By STEVE MILLER

BILL FORD’S DEPARTURE last week from center stage at Ford Motor will be a small loss from a public image perspective since the scion of the Ford family lost his credibility years ago, analysts said.

Ford, who came to the company with an ambitious plan to make the company a forerunner in environmentally friendly technology-and often appeared in Ford advertising-was replaced as president/CEO last week by Boeing veteran Alan Mulally, though Ford will remain as chairman.

Analysts said Bill Ford’s vision, from his vow to bring up the average mile-per gallon in Ford’s truck fleet to the promise of 250,000 Ford hybrids in production by 2010 to his pursuit of making Ford the greenest of the auto industry, was toppled by reality.

Corbin Rusch of Stealing Share on Bill Ford

“It was a pie-in-the-sky idea to move Ford into the next century as a green company,” said Corbin Rusch, senior brand strategist at Stealing Share, a brand development company in Greensboro, N.C. “His heart was in the right place, but he failed in the execution. And even then, the message from Ford, the company, changed 20 times during his tenure.”

Wes Brown at Iceology, Los Angeles, agreed. “The last straw was then he went back on the promise to deliver those hybrids by 2010, a complete backtrack,” Brown said. “Who can believe him after that?”

Mulally is not likely to take the public role that Ford did since he’s not a Ford, said Jim Sanfilippo, senior industry analyst at Automotive Marketing Consultants, Bloomfield, Hills, Mich.

Product is important

Bill Ford“Bill was placing the face of the Ford family on the cover,” Sanfilippo said. “Now, product will have to be on the cover, which has been the problem the whole time. And they will have to start pitching Ford’s heritage, things like Mustang racing, the GT 40 … “

Ford has tried everything this year to stem its losses, from campaigns, such as the “Bold Moves” initiative launched in May, to partnerships with celebs. Bold move: Ford loses like Funkmaster Flex and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks.

In the end, resurrecting Ford may just have been too big a job for even the company’s namesake, Sanfilippo said, adding, “Not to demean Bill, but just because his name is Ford doesn’t mean he’s a car guy, either.” greenest of the auto industry, was toppled by reality.

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