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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Ford Does More Self Inflicted Damage

Over on Americablog comments, a Ford PR person commented anonymously.

Apparently it was Jerry Reynolds, an influencial dealer in Dallas who brokered the meeting between the AFA and Ford.

AFA Calls Off Ford Boycott

Posted Jun 7, 2005, 2:43 PM ET by Randall Halcomb
Related entries: Car Buying

Ford logoWow, what a short boycott! Less than a week ago, the conservative Christian group the American Family Association announced a boycott against Ford for their support of gay rights groups, their gay marketing, and their active recruiting of homosexuals. On Monday, they suspended their call for a boycott after a Texas dealer offered to mediate between Ford and the AFA. Jerry Reynolds, owner of Prestige Ford in Garland, Texas, wrote the AFA pleading to end the boycott because it would mostly hurt dealers and their employees. Reynolds and four other dealers met with AFA founder Donald Wildmon to discuss the matter in Dallas. Reynolds is going to get the ear of Ford executives, but they were able to iron out some issues at the Dallas meeting. On the AFA's boycott website, you would often see advertisements aimed at homosexuals. The only problem was, they were not American ads. Reynolds and his peers convinced Wildmon to only focus on North American advertisements. Reynolds was convinced the boycott would hurt sales in the Bible Belt, but we think Wildmon took advantage of the mediation because the boycott may have be ineffective.

Reynolds was quoted in the Detroit News coverage:

Jerry Reynolds, an influential Ford dealer in Garland, Texas, who joined company executives in the meeting with AFA officials last week, said many dealers were concerned about the boycott. In the end, he said Ford made the changes because of financial concerns.

"It had a lot more to do with pure business than anything else. They are cutting back everywhere," Reynolds said.

You can call Jerry Reynolds dealers at these numbers:

888-435-2503 (Prestige Ford - Jerry Reynolds, Dallas)

866-838-6192 (Prestige Masda, Mercury - Jerry Reynolds, Dallas)

Meanwhile there's a Ford PR person trying to do damage control on the Americablog comments:

Wake Up people. Please go read the extent to which Ford Motor Company supports GLBT employees in its policies and fosters all types of diversity.


They are far above in supporting diversity initiatives of all types and have one of the best domestic partner benefit programs of any major company. They also have a significant amount of openly gay managers and executives who can back this up.

Unfortunately, they are also a business under tremendous competitive pressure. If this were in response to the bozos at AFA, they would have cut Volvo advertising in these same publications also (which they actually increased).
Wake Up | 12.06.05 - 7:05 pm

Another commenter was suspicious, and John Aravosis did an IP lookup which confirmed it. The post came from a Ford computer.

CNN did a story on this. The problem with their story is they gave John Aravosis credit for breaking this story. That's not correct. I read about this last week on Pam Spaulding's blog - and Pam has been following the AFA's efforts to go after Ford for quite a while. She doesn't have the readership of Americablog. Jesus General has done a mockup ad for the 2006 Ford Klansman.

I stopped by Ford's Investor Relations site and send this feedback:

I was appalled to read that Ford had decided to kowtow to the anti-gay
bleatings from American Family Association. Would you quite including black models in your advertising because the Klan complained? Would you quit advertising in black or jewish media because of complaints from the Klan.

I am especially disappointed in this action because my father had been the recipient of Ford Foundation grants when he was a Professor at the UW Madison - and our family grew up on Fords.

If, as your marketing department has indicated, you are no longer marketing your Jaguar or Rover brands in "advocacy" publications, there are a number of questions which investors might legitimately ask: Since AARP is an advocacy organization (for instance) and they explicity fight discrimination on the basis of lifestyle, can we expect that Ford will cease marketing to the AARP demographic as well, since AARP seems to take a contrary position to that of AFA? Can Ford publish a specific standard against which they will make future marketing decisions on the basis of "advocacy"? Since AFA is an advocacy group whose mission statement says, "The American Family Association exists to motivate and equip citizens to change the culture to reflect Biblical truth.", can Ford investors assume that the company will make product decisions going forward that are consistent with this advocacy group versus other advocacy groups? I look forward to seeing this addressed in this month's SEC filings.

Meanwhile Ford is looking for a bailout from Washington, but they don't want those words used.

They're also asking for one rhetorical favor: Please don't call the requests a bailout.

"I don't view it as a bailout," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said.

"We're not looking for a bailout," agreed William C. Ford Jr., chairman of Ford Motor Co.

John Aravosis from Americablog hasn't called on his readers to write Carl Levin about this. Perhaps that's because Levin is a democrat. Aravosis has been making this about George Bush though.

The AFA has taken down their Ford Boycott pages. They are still available in google's cache.


Marty Grimes said...

Very informative post. Thank you. The anonymous post could be from a PR guy, but it might just be from a gay employee. It's certainly true that Ford GLOBE has been a highly successful Employee Resource Group.

Here's an excerpt from what I wrote in my blog:

Ford has insisted that this is strictly a "business decision." If Ford really just decided to pull the ads because they weren't effective, then why is Donald Wildmon so smugly declaring victory?

This "business decision" is the crux of the problem. We've been making great headway in Corporate America by arguing the "business case" for diversity. Offering domestic partnership benefits doesn't cost much, but attracts highly talented employees, we've argued successfully. Promoting respect and inclusion increases productivity, we attest, because employees who are respected do better work. We don't bother to argue that it's simply the right thing to do.

HRC, which rates companies on a 100-point Corporate Equality Index, explains that corporations are becoming more gay friendly because "fairness is good for business."

But that makes for a dangerous equation. If the AFA folks buy more Fords than we do, we lose. Justice cannot be denied just because it doesn't make money. It may be that Ford has concluded that an Equality Index score of 100 isn't the right mark to aim for. They may decide to go for a sweet spot where the fundamentalists leave them alone; maybe an 82 or a 76.

The bottom line is, indeed, the bottom line. Ford is a corporation that exists to make money. As long as "shareholder value" is the only value that matters in Corporate America, Donald Wildmon will continue to carve notches into his belt.