Even the smallest cost-cutting ideas are getting the attention of top Ford Motor Co. executives. Among the moves praised by Ford's president of the Americas, in a May employee newsletter: cutting back on lawn fertilization; reducing the number of company cars; avoiding nonessential color copying; and printing double-sided copies. Smith didn't tally up the savings expected from those actions, but he did offer a progress report on travel cutbacks. Ford says it has reduced business trips by 36 percent and has saved an additional $8 million by using nonrefundable restricted tickets.
HEY, DON'T WORRY ABOUT US -- Analysts and journalists had a lot of questions last week about General Motors' latest incentive program, which allows everyone to buy a vehicle with the employee discount. During an hour-long conference call, Paul Ballew, GM's chief sales analyst, fielded more than a dozen calls questioning the strategy. "How's the company going to make money?" one reporter asked. "We'll be fine," Ballew responded. "We've taken the financial consideration into account. Come on down and buy a vehicle, that's all we ask you to do. We'll be OK."
BIG GAME, BIG BID -- When it comes to charities, auto executives are known for doing their part. At this year's American Heart Association ball in Detroit, partygoers bid on donated items, such as a ride with General Motors' Robert Lutz in his MiG fighter and a dinner with GM's Gary Cowger, with the proceeds going to the association. How ecumenical was it? Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. spokesman John McCandless paid $5,000 for two tickets donated by GM to next year's Super Bowl, which will be played at Detroit's Ford Field.
LISTEN UP -- Should a Jaguar purr or roar? The brand, which takes pride in its quiet ride, was surprised by a recent survey in which respondents rated Jaguar highly for quietness but also praised the powerful sounds of BMWs. "Jaguar has introduced new sound targets," says Paul Jennings of the Warwick Manufacturing Group in England. To help Jaguar meet those targets, Jennings' group uses a test rig that can make a Jaguar XJ8 sound and feel like eight other brands, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. So what will future Jaguars sound like? Keep listening.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT? THAT'S FOR PEASANTS -- Plenty of people are in a lather over the sudsy washing that a scantily clad Paris Hilton gives a Bentley, and herself, in an infamous commercial for a burger chain. The spot works fine if you're a publicity-hungry celebrity or a fast-food company, but class-conscious Bentley Motors Inc. has another view -- delivered, of course, with upper-crust aplomb. Says John Crawford, Bentley's PR director: "Whilst Bentley Motors is pleased to witness increasing popularity of its cars, it does not initiate the inclusion of its cars in independent productions."