When it comes to public relations crises in the auto industry, the Ford-Firestone tire controversy in the early 2000s is usually regarded as the biggest. Yet Jason Vines, who was in charge of PR at Ford at the time, believes the General Motors ignition-switch recall could eclipse Ford-Firestone.
"Somebody did not put the safety and the satisfaction of the customer first," said Vines, who was in Detroit last week to promote his new book: What Did Jesus Drive? Crisis PR in Cars, Computers and Christianity (Waldorf Publishing). "It looks like it was [someone] far down the line. I think someone is going to jail for that. In the book, near the end, I say, 'Is this going to be worse than Ford-Firestone?' I think the answer might be, 'Yes.'"
What troubles the flamboyant former PR titan, who also held top jobs at Nissan and Chrysler, is that he thinks GM is trying to make people believe the ignition-switch recall crisis is mostly already over.
Said Vines: "I don't think they're even halfway through because the plaintiffs' attorneys really haven't had their way."