CHICAGO: Ford has come a long way in repairing the damage done to its image by the Firestone tire crisis but needs to do more at the grassroots level to build consumer confidence and affinity for the brand, said William Clay Ford Jr., chairman and CEO.
"The last two-and-a-half years [since Firestone] really have been about rebuilding the brand," Ford said during a luncheon at the Chicago Auto Show last week. "Today we are making substantial progress. Image is something I think I'm going to be working on every single day of my working life."
While Ford acknowledged that his company has been scoring well in brand loyalty surveys, he sees brand rebuilding continuing at the grassroots level. "You really win a reputation customer by customer; its word of mouth," he said.
While Ford discussed his company's reputation, other automakers were holding press previews for new models.
The return of Jason Vines, know for auto show publicity stunts, to the Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler was evident in the unveiling of a 2005 Dodge Dakota truck. Rather than just drive the truck into the preview area, Vines hid the new Dakota under an inflatable fabric bubble while a company executive talked about "deflating" competitors' claims about their trucks. He then burst the bubble with an oversized pin.
Vines, who returned to Chrysler last month as VP of communications after a stint at Stratacomm, planned a second stunt at the Chicago show called "Stand by Your Van," in which 20 people would see how long they could keep their hands on a Chrysler van. The last one touching the van would win.
Developed with agency ClearBlue, the stunt was set to start last Thursday, and Vines predicted it would last 72 hours. NBC planned to send a film crew, as did local stations. Chrysler was making b-roll available.