Ford, what are you thinking?

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The slogan used to go "Have you driven a Ford lately?"

Well... I have, unfortunately. I find myself behind the wheel of a Ford vehicle several times per year. Rentals, mostly. My opinion of Ford vehicles isn't great. It isn't great at all. As a matter of fact, unless Ford starts making better cars (or making cars better), I will never, ever buy a Ford, no matter how cheap. If someone gives me a Ford, I will immediately trade it in for another brand.

And I guess a lot of people feel the same way because despite a huge advertising budget and aggressive price cuts earlier this year, a lot of people aren't buying Ford vehicles either.

So now, Ford is cutting 30,000 jobs.

Strangely, you won't find that little bit of info on Ford's website. Instead, you'll read that Texans Love Ford Trucks. You'll learn that Mustang pedal cars make kids happy. You'll learn what conferences and trade shows Ford will be attending next. More importantly, you will finally find out who that girl in the Mercury commercials is.

If you really dig, you'll also get to read a tiny little cryptic blurb about how Ford is all about inclusion and diversity, citing Volvo's advertising in gay and lesbian markets.


Oh yeah, in case you hadn't heard, Ford has just agreed to pull all of its advertising from gay and lesbian magazines in response to a boycott launched by the American Family Association. The ads were specific to the Land Rover and Jaguar brands. (Thanks to Emergence Marketing for reporting this today.)

So... Let's recap: 30,000 jobs are going to get sacked because sales are down. Meanwhile, Ford decides to pull out of lucrative markets because of pressure from a gay-bashing religious group.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

How about this, Ford:

1) Start making better cars. Not more expensive cars, but better cars. Cars that don't fall apart. Cars with comfortable seats. Cars with decent suspension. Cars that people will actually enjoy driving. It's called design. The Japanese know about design. So do the Europeans. You can learn it too. (There is life beyond giant pickup trucks.)

Maybe once you make your cars cool, reliable and fun to drive, people will start buying them again.

Don't believe me? Look at the Hummer brand. What could be more American in spirit than that giant military-like gasoline-guzzling tank on wheels? Even with gasoline prices hitting $3 per gallon and doomsday reports of impending fuel shortages, Hummer vehicles are selling like hotcakes.

Tell me design and passion don't drive sales. Tell me the car market is all about pricepoints. Just try to make that argument stick.

Make better cars and your sales will increase. Period. End of story.

2) If a significant percentage of gay and lesbian drivers buy Land Rovers and Jaguars, don't do something stupid to alienate them... Like pull your ads out of their magazines. What are you thinking?!

What's next? Will a boycott from the KKK make you pull ads from magazines geared towards ethnic minorities? How about Jewish and Muslim publications? How about European markets while you're at it? (Those pesky French people keep saying bad things about us after all. Long live the Freedom Fries, right?)

Why don't you start targeting white, christian, straight red-blooded Americans exclusively?

Seriously, Ford. What's up? It's like the lights are on but nobody's home. Do you need a quick lesson in leadership?

30,000 jobs down the toilet, and your next move is to send away a healthy chunk of what few customers you hadn't yet chased away? Why?

Couldn't you have told the American Family Association that Ford will advertise to anyone it wants to? Couldn't you have told them that you will advertise in whatever publications you see fit? Couldn't you have told them to just mind their own business?

Perhaps you could invite their leadership to start designing your cars. Perhaps you should begin to seek their approval before launching your next ad campaign. (Is it still okay to advertise during the Superbowl? Can you still advertise in magazines like Esquire, GQ or Cosmo?)


Ford, you've hit an all-time low this week. You really have.

Let me let you in on a little secret: The reason that Japanese auto makers are kicking your butt is because -

1) They make the best car possible for the money. You make the most easily manufacturable car for the money.

2) Their attention to detail is evident in their design. Your attention to detail is almost an oxymoron.

3) Japanese cars are fun to drive. Yours aren't. (And no, the Mustang isn't all that great.)

4) Japanese engines. Ford engines. End of story.

5) Japanese car makers will advertise and sell to whomever loves their cars, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.

I'm sorry to say this, Ford, but I'm not sure that you have much of a strategy anymore. Tell me, what are you about? What's your purpose? Tell me why I should buy one of your products? Tell me why I should choose you over anyone else? (Besides the whole "buy American" thing.)

BMW's X5 is made in America, just fifteen miles from my house. Japanese automakers are employing thousands right here in the US. Buying their cars is buying American.

Time for some leadership changes at Ford, methinks.

Related posts: Tom Peters' "The View From Home"

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