President Biden’s Ford F-150 test drive accelerates worldwide publicity

Ford’s CCO called the visit a “one-in-a-million opportunity.”

DEARBORN, MI: Ford’s chief communications officer Mark Truby called President Joe Biden’s visit to the factory that’s producing its new electric pick-up truck a “force multiplier.”

“To have the President of the United States come to the heart of our operations and say that this F-150 Lightning is the direction and future of where he sees the auto industry was an incredible message to get across on a scale you could never do on your own,” said Truby. “It was a one-in-a-million opportunity for a company like Ford to show its product to the world.”

He commented that the vehicle went from the auto page to the front page to the evening news. The F-150 spanned a Wall Street Journal cover story to an MSNBC Rachel Maddow segment.

“I don’t know how we could have asked for more in getting ready to reveal this vehicle,” Truby said.

Biden test drove a camouflaged vehicle as Ford prepared to unveil its new product, on Wednesday evening. For that event, the company planned large-scale, projection mapping on the outside of Ford’s headquarters, inviting the press and local politicians. Ford also scheduled the reveal to simultaneously appear in Times Square and the Las Vegas Strip, while live-streamed on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. 

Additionally, Biden tweeted about the visit.

Truby pointed out that Ford is a United Auto Workers employer and the largest producer of cars in the U.S. He differentiated his company’s domestic manufacturing footprint, noting although a global corporation, “85% of the cars we sell in America are built in America.”

Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan includes a $174 billion investment in the EV-market. The administration’s goals of moving to a greener electric economy, promoting American manufacturing and union jobs align with Ford’s business plans.

Michigan went blue in the 2020 presidential election, with Biden capturing 50.6% of the votes, compared to Trump’s 47.8%. On Tuesday, a Michigan judge dismissed one of the final, high-profile challenges to the elections, seeking to overturn the results.

Could there be political fallout resulting from Biden’s visit?
“Two iconic American brands—Ford and Biden—concluded that the benefits of a joint appearance outweighed potential downsides,” said Sean Smith, EVP and corporate counsel lead at Porter Novelli. “Both brands reaffirmed their values to their respective target audiences, and that’s job one in today’s climate.”

Brent Snavely, senior director at Lambert & Co., who previously covered the automobile industry as a journalist for the Detroit Free Press, said Ford hit a home run by deftly seizing the opportunity to showcase its highly anticipated product.

“It also gave the automaker a chance to remind a national audience that its F-Series pickups have been America’s best-selling truck for 44 years,” Snavely said.

Truby acknowledged many people in PR around the country face challenges in mass marketing brands with today’s cultural divides. He said Ford removes the politics out of the conversation by maintaining steadfast values.

Aaron Kwittken, the CEO of PRophet and chairman of KWT Global, described Biden’s visit to the Rouge Center as a win for all involved.

“Innovation, infrastructure and the environment should not be partisan issues,” said Kwittken. “It’s great to see companies like Ford actively become part of this narrative in a meaningful, collaborative and civil manner. I am hopeful we can continue to see more moments like these between the administration and corporations.”

Truby added that Biden’s visit helped shape perceptions of the historic, iconic company.

“A lot of people think the tech companies, the Teslas, are the only ones with a chance to win the future,” he said. “Our big challenge is that we want people to understand Ford might be 118 years old but we have an exciting future that’s high tech and innovative.”

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