The deadline for talks between the United Auto Workers and the Formerly Big Three automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) theoretically looms on September 14.
No one has more at stake in a sweetheart deal than Ford, for reasons almost entirely of its own making.
Oh, the Dearborn-based company has the same daunting challenges as its other brethren at the bargaining table: a too-high cost structure, expensive retiree health-care costs, and a product line in need of serious work. That much is known.
What isn't as well-known, and rarely understood, is that Ford has embarked on a seven-year journey of uber-Politicial Correctness that now threatens to gut its core US vehicle business.
Yesterday, Tom Borelli at Townhall explained the environmental aspect of the company's loss of, excuse the word, focus. As the company moved from concentrating on making great cars to the misnomer known as "Corporate Social Responsibility" (CSR), it hurt itself, and the entire industry:
At the turn of the century, instead of confronting the business threat posed by global warming, William Clay Ford Jr., then chief executive of Ford Motor Company, had a better idea: embrace CSR.
The company declared war on its most profitable vehicles in its first corporate citizenship report in 2000 when it said SUVs contribute more to global warming than cars. Mr. Ford expressed concern that SUVs would harm the company’s reputation and he feared public opinion would turn against the company. According to news reports, the company wanted to be considered the "most environmentally responsible automaker."
..... The political response to fossil fuel fears that Ford helped generate is evident in California. In 2002, the state passed a law limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles sold in California in 2009. In 2006, California sued automakers over global warming because greenhouse gases caused billions of dollars in damages.
If the harm Ford has done to itself was limited to enviro-nonsense, that would be one thing. But on top of that, the company has embraced far-left and culture-war causes that are far, far removed from anything having to do with making great cars. Two such examples have been its active opposition to affirmative action ballot initiatives and its stubborn support and sponsorship of groups supporting homosexual marriage.
Advocating causes that are at odds with the views of much of your company's customer base may appear not have a lot to do with producing cars. But at a minimum, it distracts always time-crunched management from paying enough attention to it. If you somehow don't agree with that, you can't deny that getting behind causes customers don't like often can, and often does, end up having a lot to do with selling cars -- or, more accurately in this case, not selling them.
Ford has decided to make itself Exhibit A in proving that point.
The American Family Association called for a boycott of Ford over its support of homosexual groups over 18 months ago. AFA doesn't want Ford to join the one-man, one-woman marriage bandwagon; it wants Ford to shift into neutral, as Wal-Mart did late last year, when it appeared that it too might have overinhaled on PC vapors. Wal-Mart specifically stated that it would return to putting all of its energies into what it does best, discount retailing, and threw its extraneous activities overboard.
I am not a supporter of AFA's boycott, because I believe it is hurting too many good people. I recognize, of course, that reasonable people can disagree on this matter, and am not about to criticize anyone who finds the company's positions and actions unsupportable, and a reason not to do business with it.
Unlike Ford, and unlike Old Media, which has thus far virtually ignored what may be the most "successful" boycott in the 21st century so far, I'm not pretending that the boycott doesn't exist, or that it has been ineffective (I covered Old Media's studied ignorance, while it gives inkand bandwidth to other very trivial boycotts, in April. Nothing has changed.). The boycott does exist, and it has had a significant negative impact that, if anything, continues to grow.
Since AFA's boycott call, almost 750,000 people have signed their boycott petition. Ford's monthly sales results during that time have come in as follows (figures were found in an AFA spreadsheet that is consistent with what I have seen reported in the months involved; August's result was added by me from this Associated Press story at MSNBC):
The evidence that the deterioration in Ford's US market position is accelerating is virtually beyond doubt. Ford's monthly US sales during the AFA boycott period have almost always trailed the average result of its competitors by at least 5% to 10%. But August 2007 was even worse: Ford's -14.4% trailed the unweighted average of its five biggest rivals by a whopping 16% (GM, +6%; Toyota, -2.8%; Chrysler, -6.1%; Nissan, +6.3%; Honda, +4.7%; average, +1.6%). Every 2007 decline during the boycott period has been worse than the corresponding decline 12 months earlier.
The sphere of influence of the AFA boycott is arguably every bit of 15-20 million people, and growing. AFA itself has over 3.1 million members who probably influence 3-5 others, while the boycott has the support of 34 other influential pro-family organizations. There's little doubt that Ford has turned its back on at least 10% of car buyers, who also happen to be among those more likely to buy more-profitable SUV and crossover vehicles.
The fact is that anecdotes like this one are more than likely being played out hundreds of times across the country, to little or no publicity:
September 6, 2007
Pro-homosexual policies at the Ford Motor Company are being cited as the reason one ministry leader broke a longstanding tradition of purchasing vehicles from Ford.
..... ministry leader (Stephen Bennett) says Ford's diversity policies meant his ministry could not purchase a Ford vehicle. "Ford lost out on a huge amount of money," he points out. "..... it is just very sad that Ford continues to promote this agenda."
It's "sad" for more than Ford. Add to the "sad" list at least the following: its employees, whose livelihoods are in jeopardy (a good UAW deal for GM and Chrysler might not be good enough to enable Ford to survive in the US market long-term); its suppliers; its dealers; and the states and communities where its plants and facilities are located.
Short of more years of double-digit unit sales declines that the company can ill afford, what will it take for the deniers in Dearborn, and the Old Media business reporters covering the company, to acknowledge what is happening?
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.