Full Deck by Barbara Shulgasser-Parker

September 20, 2007

presenting the ford allergy

Filed under: Uncategorized — bshulg @ 1:11 am

  It looks like the U.S. automakers dodged another big fat legal bullet. On September 17, a federal court in San Francisco dismissed efforts by the state of California to sue the car companies for their role in global warming.  

   For years, Ford and General Motors chose to hawk gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks with names recalling the Wild West, continental expansion and the American spirit of adventure. Silverado, Mustang, Expedition, TrailBlazer, Bronco and Explorer catered to our nostalgia for simpler times, our need for clean, safe cars be damned.

   Year after year, the car companies lobbied the federal government to postpone mandated lower emissions, better gas mileage and improved safety. They claimed that the costly retooling required to produce efficient cars would reduce dividends to shareholders and ultimately undermine American markets. That’s not good for America, they cried, and when big corporations are not happy, and markets are not happy, rich contributors to campaigns are not happy, which means that senators, congressmen and presidents, who depend on contributions, don’t get elected to new terms. Hence the reluctance to act by our brave representatives in Washington.                                          

   The federal judge Martin J. Jenkins’s logic in dismissing the suit? He believes the issue is too complex for the courts. He believes that congressmen, senators and presidents ought to do something about this terrible problem. Hmmm.  

   Now the whole federal government, every last branch of it, is joining the car companies in what they do best: putting off the future.    

   The future has stubbornly arrived nevertheless. So, in the face of global warming and financial reversals, officers from Ford and General Motors reported plans not too long ago to address these setbacks with a series of dramatic measures, including cutting pension and health plans, downsizing the workforce, closing factories and designing new, more energy-efficient (and expensive) models in the effort to compete with Japanese and European manufacturers.   

   You may wonder what’s their hurry. But all I can think is tsk tsk, how short-sighted of The Big Two. Under this program, employee moral will plunge. And consumers will rebel as domestic cars inch their way up into the import price range. Who would buy a Buick for what a BMW might cost?  

   Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective and less disruptive to pour all available resources into just making up new names for their cars?    

   Instead of striving for what has eluded them for so long – making better, more fuel-efficient cars and streamlining operations – GM and Ford should immediately set their respective marketing gurus to correcting the most easily altered aspect of their recent failures: public perception. The effort should be designed to appeal to a post-midterm election reality-based cohort of shoppers eager to do business with what they perceive to be honest and well-intended car companies.  

   The re-namings could begin with cars and trucks known for getting fewest miles-per-gallon, failing crash tests, tipping over during normal maneuvers and tending to kill the passengers and drivers of smaller cars when involved with them in low-speed crashes.  

   Imagine the television commercial introducing (with deep-voiced authority) the new 2008 Apology from Ford, as well as the Cadillac Calamity, the Lincoln Lemon, the Mercury Malady, the Chevrolet Peril, the Buick Drain and the Ford Travesty. Other names can debut with the 2009 model year, including the Flub, the Bogus and the Fizzle.  

   Such startling candor, unprecedented in American commercial enterprise, will jump-start the American automobile industry, with salutary trickle-down reverberations for the steel, glass, plastic and advertising sectors as well. Let The Big Two automakers do their duty to their country by putting on an honest face. Perhaps actual honesty and good intentions will follow, but if the bottom line improves, no one in his right mind will expect it.


1 Comment »

  1. Barbara,

    The former journalist in me gives you an A…. on paragraph structure. This one looks great. It also reads great .

    You missed a couple….. Edsel and Corvair. Both names need to come back… just to remind Ford & GM how good they can be.

    Uncle Ira…. although the Uncle doesn’t seem appropriate when talking about cars…. children yes !!!! Cars, not so sure

    Comment by Uncle Ira — September 20, 2007 @ 2:47 am

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