DETROIT: Ford seems to have won the latest PR battle against former
tire supplier Bridgestone/Firestone.
Ford announced on May 22 that it would spend in the neighborhood of
dollars 3 billion to replace between 10 million and 13 million Firestone
tires on its vehicles. The move painted Ford as the company most
concerned about consumer's safety in the ongoing tire debacle that dates
back to August.
Ford's latest decision had such widespread press coverage in the days
leading up to this recall that Firestone attempted a pre-emptive PR
strike the day before. On May 21, Firestone chairman John Lampe
announced Firestone would no longer supply tires to Ford, breaking a
partnership spanning the best part of a century. Lampe said Firestone
couldn't trust Ford any more and strongly implied the problems of last
year had more to do with the safety of Ford Explorers than with
Firestone tires. Firestone backed his comments with charts on its Web
But while some PR experts gave Firestone early credit for trying to make
the best out of a bad situation, Ford's move clearly painted it as the
consumers' friend. Firestone came off as a petulant company more
concerned about apportioning blame than helping consumers.
Ford pulled out all the PR stops for its announcement, even rolling out
company chairman William Clay Ford Jr., who had stayed conspicuously out
of the controversy last year.
The automaker kicked off a 5pm press conference timed for the evening
news, with Ford, who spoke before Jac Nasser, Ford's CEO and point man
last year. Ford spoke emotionally of how tough the situation was for him
given his family ties to both the Ford and Firestone clans.
"Ford's doing just about everything it can do," said Dave Cole, director
of the Center of Automotive Research.