DETROIT: Ford's new 2002 Explorer has barely rolled off the
assembly line but has already come in for extensive media scrutiny in
the wake of last year's Explorer accidents involving Firestone
A recent New York Times article criticized the planned Explorer
advertising for failing to focus on safety issues. A USA Today story
discussed the challenge Ford faces in convincing consumers the SUV is an
However, Ford is planning to introduce safety messages in its PR for the
new model, although tactics are being kept under wraps. A Ford PR exec
working on the effort said she isn't ready to discuss the strategy for
getting those messages to the public.
Seasoned Detroit PR execs and crisis communications experts have said
Ford will need to walk a fine line discussing new safety features
without drawing attention to problems with the old Explorer.
Larry Smith, president of the Institute for Crisis Management followed
the crisis extensively last year and said the media seems more concerned
with the topic now than the public does. 'I don't think Ford has ever
been in as much trouble with the buying public as the media thought it
was,' Smith said. Still, he said, 'you would think with the issues
they've been facing that safety would be a selling point.'
- See Editorial, p. 8.