Here PDL AE rant of the week www.autoextremist.com
SATURDAY, JUNE 5, 2021 AT 10:17AM
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. It never ceases to amaze me that The Motor City is still a company town like no other (well, except for Hollywood, which is its own special brew). Unless you live around here, it's hard to understand what I'm talking about, but once again I've been presented an opportunity to paint for you a vivid picture of what I mean. Last Thursday (June 3rd), the Detroit Free Press - or is it the Detroit Ford Press? Or, is it the Ford Free Press? - actually ran a story (above the fold, no less) with the headline: "Lightning's bonus: A full spare." The gist of the story is that Ford's new Lightning EV pickup is the only one of the coming EV pickups to have been designed to accommodate the placement of a full-size spare tire. Yes, you read that correctly. That this "news" would merit a front-page placement and a full page inside is almost incomprehensible and flat-out tedious beyond belief. But that's what passes for journalism these days at the Freep, as it is nicknamed, and in this crazed company town. No, you just can't make this **** up, but little did I know this was just the warmup for what was to come.
Late the afternoon before, Ford PR chief Mark Truby put out a lengthy – and breathless – email statement about how Ford was realigning its PR department for the new world. Not a huge surprise, as corporate kumbayas have been de rigueur for a while now. In this era of corporate responsibility, if a major corporation isn’t wearing some cause, or stance, or crafted persona on its sleeve in full view of the public, well, something’s just not right. And I think this is generally a beneficial development and constitutes proper corporate citizenship. After all, trying to contribute something to the greater good is a worthwhile endeavor.
But sometimes, as in most things when corporations get involved, things can go awry, and in a hurry. And when it comes to car companies, there’s always a chance that things can go off the rails with blazing speed.
Given that, the big news with this PR announcement from Ford was that the company had hired Caroline Adler Morales, who previously toiled for former President Barack – and Michelle – Obama. With a long and illustrious career in the political arena, Morales has been given the title of “director of stakeholder advocacy” at Ford, which Truby explained thusly: "In this role, she will be responsible for bringing our purpose to life through great initiatives and creative communications, helping us become far more intentional about showing our values to the world."
"We want to be a company that is not only known for products and services but we want our corporate character to shine through," Truby continued. And then, this is when it got sketchy. "You want to be part of the cultural conversation. We want to build advocacy — like when you think of Patagonia, Disney and even Tesla. They're very intentional about helping others tell their story and about building fandom and support, whether in the environmental community or people who just love Broncos or Mustangs or F-150s," Truby said.
"We have the potential as a brand to have even more love and support and advocacy from the public than what we do. But we have to be intentional about it. At the highest level, Caroline will be working on those types of strategies — from corporate giving to ESG — environmental, social and governance priorities."
Oh, really? The PR minions over in Dearborn can’t possibly believe this mumbo jumbo, can they? Love and support and advocacy from the public? You have got to be kidding me. I know certain high-ranking members of the Dearborn-based automaker have lofty, bordering on the touchy-feely, opinions of themselves and Ford’s place in the world, but this is laughable, and unmitigated bull**** of the first order. (Even China's President Xi Jinping wants to do a rebrand so that his country becomes more "lovable." It's like a plague.)
That would have been enough, thank you very much, from Ford for one week, but then the lamentable Phoebe Wall Howard weighed in with a gushing, 2500-word online piece late Friday afternoon (and, of course, it appeared on Page 1 in Sunday's Freep) with the blaring headline: “Ford stock was cheaper than a sandwich. Now shareholders are gloating.”
Now, it’s no secret that Howard has been, shall we say, CEO Jim “Jimmy Har-Har” Farley’s biggest booster, but now even other members of the usually compliant media that cover the auto biz whom I talked to were saying out loud, “WTF?” As in, what gives with Howard and Ford? Another said, “This is just getting ****ing ridiculous.” Or, as one observer said to me succinctly, "Why don’t they just call the Freep the Ford Free Pass?"