Never turn a one-day story into a two-day story.
That was the crisis-management philosophy espoused by Don Canham, a marketing genius who transformed the University of Michigan football program into a world-renowned brand and money-printing machine over 21 years as the school’s athletic director.
Ford Motor Co. clearly doesn’t believe in that approach.
It’s managed to turn the fact that it’s moving small-car production from the U.S. to Mexico into a yearlong debacle, right in the midst of the most divisive presidential election in history. Republican nominee Donald Trump has been more than willing to take the bait, repeatedly bashing Ford as traitorous during rallies and debates.
Instead of just being transparent and explaining that the shift will allow hourly workers in Michigan to have better job security by building more popular, profitable pickups and SUVs instead, Ford decided to leak its plan in drips and drabs starting in the summer of 2015. Until Wednesday, Ford executives were inexplicably evasive about the subject every time it came up.
[A day later, Ford CEO Mark Fields defended the company’s moves in an interview with CNN.]
In July 2015, I and a number of other reporters wrote that Ford planned to move production of the Focus and C-Max from the U.S. to Mexico in 2018. Ford refused to say where the cars would be moved, even though it reportedly told the UAW they were headed to Mexico. Last November, Ford’s new contract with the UAW showed that production of nearly all cars would end in the U.S., with Mexico the expected destination. FCA’s UAW deal showed it had similar plans.
Early this year, reports indicated that Ford was planning a new assembly plant in Mexico. A spokeswoman dismissed the reports as “speculation.”
In April, Ford finally confirmed the $1.6 billion plant, but it wouldn’t say what vehicles would be built there. UAW President Dennis Williams, who had known about the plans for at least nine months at that point, took the opportunity to publicly flog Ford for the “very troubling” move.