Car makers usher in PR support

Edelman Financial and FD to back Daimler stakeholder firm and Ford respectively.

Edelman Financial and FD are among the first financial PR firms to benefit from the global auto-manufacturers' attempts to boost balance sheets as they face plummeting sales.

Edelman Financial is managing media relations for Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments' EUR1.85bn acquisition of a 9.1 per cent stake in Daimler, maker of Mercedes, while FD is supporting Ford's strategic review of Volvo as Ford decides what action to take with the Swedish firm.

The moves come as the auto industry is facing an unprecedented collapse in demand in the sector. Figures last week showed the number of new cars produced in the UK fell by a record 59 per cent in February, year-on-year - and it is a similar story of woe across the globe.

In these dreadful sector conditions, Aabar's investment into Daimler has been enthusiastically received, with the FT calling it 'a blueprint for other carmakers'.

'We feel that people have understood the merits of the deal and see it as a marriage of two businesses that have complementary skills and assets,' said Paul Lockstone, MD of Edelman Financial.

Aabar is listed in Abu Dhabi and directly invests in various sectors. Its largest stakeholder is the International Petroleum Investment Company, which is wholly owned by the government of Abu Dhabi.

Negative media coverage around foreign investors largely centres on their long-term interest and potential political influence, concerns the media relations campaign was keen to abate.

Lockstone added: 'It was important to get across the message that Aabar is a committed long-term investor and that it is a deal done by Daimler from a position of strength. We also expect the deal to bring considerable benefits to Abu Dhabi as a result of the commitment by both sides to explore training and manufacturing opportunities.'

Lockstone is part of an international Edelman team managing media relations from its offices in the UK, Germany and Abu Dhabi.

The immediate course of action for Ford is less clear as it conducts its strategic review of Volvo. Reports have speculated that Ford will look for a sale, but the review is ongoing.

FD is providing international media relations and strategic comms support. Its work is led by senior MD Giles Sanderson and chairman of financial comms Andrew Lorenz, reporting to John Gardiner, director of strategic comms for Ford of Europe.

The agency has worked with Ford before on its sale of Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover. It is understood that FD will work with the car giant through the duration of the review, including supporting any potential sale.

HOW I SEE IT - Rupert Pittman, Director, Cardew Group

With the auto sector in turmoil, it is difficult for anybody to paint a positive picture about the short-term fundamentals. Putting a good spin on something that is ultimately a fireside sale is challenging, particularly if you are representing the vendor.

Car sales have primarily fallen for two reasons; people cannot get credit and are putting off changing their vehicles until they know how long the recession will last. The one positive message is that the fundamentals of the automotive industry are ultimately robust. People need their vehicles and there will be a recovery. The question is, when?

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