WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co. executives say they expect prompt results from CEO Bill Ford's call for federal action to help the U.S.-based auto industry cope with energy issues.
Ford's plan is not doomed because it came from a single automaker, says Dan Brouillette, Ford Motor's vice president for governmental affairs.
Ford proposed an energy agenda in a Nov. 22 speech here. The company's Washington office got many responses from congressional offices, Brouillette told Automotive News last week. Nearly all applauded the speech, he says.
Brouillette predicts that major energy producers and users and government officials soon will hold a national conference. It is too early to tell, he says, whether the White House will organize the meeting, as Ford suggested.
In his speech, Ford called for government help to encourage the production and use of gasoline-electric hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles.
Coalition-building generally is considered a prerequisite for success in Washington. But Brouillette insists the plan is not flawed by expressing a Ford-only agenda.
"We haven't made any conscious decision to go alone," he says. "Typically there is a leader, like Ford, with an idea on the table. People will agree or disagree, and follow or not follow."
A veteran industry insider says Ford Motor designed its go-it-alone approach to complement its national advertising theme of leadership on innovation. But the approach could backfire if it comes across as a call for a government bailout, the source says. The insider asked not to be named so as to not offend Ford executives.
Penn Schoen & Berland Associates helped develop the ad theme. The Washington research firm is known mainly for its work with Democratic political campaigns.
Ford claimed in his speech that Japanese automakers got the jump on hybrids because they had government subsidies. That assertion could limit his ability to draw industry backers for his energy agenda.
The industry's main lobbying group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, includes the Big 3 and six import-brand automakers.
Fred Webber, the alliance's president, says the industry's principal energy policy is to build and offer consumers many choices of fuel-efficient vehicles.