Retail Front

Ford's Jim Farley Swings Mean Bat Against Rival GM

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jim-farley.jpg I’ve occasionally tried to get auto executives to rap their rivals.

It never seems to work. When I once asked Ford CEO Alan Mulally to critically assess General Motors, he changed the subject.

When I asked Rick Wagoner, CEO of GM at the time, to reflect on then-struggling Ford’s problems, he said, “We’ve got enough of our own issues to deal with, without dealing with Ford’s."

Jim Farley

Well, I tried.

Auto dealers take similar stances. They may grapple as same-market competitors, but they socialize with each other, belong to the same groups and work together on civic projects. Rarely does a dealer blast another.

Ronald Reagan’s “11th commandment" was, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republicans.” The auto industry adheres to a similar taboo when it comes to talking about the competition.

So it seemed unorthodox when Jim Farley, Ford’s vice president of marketing, was quoted as loathing cross-town rival GM. His blunt remarks are in an upcoming book by New York Times auto writer Bill Vlasic.

Besides aiming a yo-mama obscenity at GM, Farley reportedly coughed up these colorful comments:

“I hate them and their company and what they stand for.”

“I’m going to beat Chevrolet on the head with a baseball bat. And I’m going to enjoy it.”

From his description, the feisty ones at Ford apparently view GM as a kid born on third base who yells, “Hey Ma, I hit a triple!”

Batter up.

The fans like this game. An automotive blog site ran a piece on Farley's frankness, hyping its story with a tabloid-esque headline and an “exclusive” banner. But how’s that the case if you are relating what someone else wrote in a book?

Some of my Ward's colleagues say the whole thing is overblown. They see it as a little locker-room talk about the other team. So what's the big deal, there? But the locker-room doors usually are closed when trash talking starts.

A GM spokesman sniffs that he didn’t expect “such crass words” from Ford.

Farley, who grew up in metro Detroit, is the grandson of a former Lincoln-Mercury dealer. Farley told me a few years ago that there was silence on the other end of the phone when he called home to tell his family he got a marketing job at Toyota. He left that Japanese auto maker to join Ford in 2007.

Ford spokesman John Stoll, when asked to comment on Farley’s comments, properly replied that Ford respects all competitors.

My office was next to Stoll’s when he worked at Ward’s as an associate editor. The son of an auto dealer, he was a tough competitor as an auto journalist. He swings a nice golf club, too, but I've never seen him swing a baseball bat.

I've yet to see Jim Farley wield a Louisville Slugger, either. If I worked for GM, I don't think I'd want to see that. At least not up close.

What's Retail Front?

Blogs about automotive retailing, commenting on news impacting the business of selling vehicles.

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Steve Finlay

Steve Finlay is the editor of WardsAuto Dealer Business magazine and a senior editor for WardsAuto.com. His journalism career started 42 years ago as a crime reporter. A Michigan native, he likes...

Jim Ziegler

Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues.
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