I like baseball. And I understand that trash talking is going to take place in the competitive world of auto retailing.
But could we please banish from the auto industry, once and for all, the image of beating people up with baseball bats?
It happened once, fatally, in Detroit. And that was once too often.
Jim Farley is the latest to take a verbal swing. The head of marketing at Ford is quoted in a book due out in October thusly:
What Jim Farley really wanted to do was kick the daylights out of General Motors. "I'm going to beat Chevrolet on the head with a bat," he said with a slightly wicked smile. "And I'm going to enjoy it."
Farley's catching some heat for another quote, a few paragraphs later in Once Upon a Car, by Bill Vlasic, in which the Ford exec says, "F*** GM."
Personally, I don't get what the fuss is over that. So what? Do you expect me to shout "Hold the presses!" because a Ford marketing chief feels no love for GM? Or is it news that auto execs can be profane? I'm sure Gentleman Bob Lutz would have a choice comment on that.
But I am disturbed by the baseball bat comment.
It brings back memories of auto workers taking baseball bats to bash Japanese cars in the 1970s, venting their anger at consumers who chose to buy a car that they didn't build. It brings back memories of the Louisville Slugger baseball bats that GM gave its plant managers and others, with "Beat Toyota" carved into them, back in the early 1990s.
And it brings back memories of Vincent Chin.
On June 19, 1982, Chin was at his bachelor party at a strip club in Highland Park, Mich., a city encircled by Detroit. A fight broke out after Ronald Ebens yelled, "It's because of you little motherf***ers that we're out of work!" Ebens apparently believed that Chin, of Chinese descent, was Japanese.
Chin left, but Ebens wasn't finished. He and a relative, Michael Nitz, went hunting for Chin. Twenty or 20 minutes later, they found Chin at a McDonald's. Nitz held Chin while Ebens beat him with a baseball bat.
Chin was unconscious when he arrived at a hospital. He died four days later.
Ebens and Nitz were convicted of manslaughter, as part of a plea bargain that reduced the charge from second-degree murder. They served no jail time, were given three years probation, fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $780 in court costs.