Mark Fields,Motor’s president-The Americas, spews anger and frustration in his criticism of the government, the public and most of all the automotive press for the amount of “negativity,” he says, that emanates regarding the domestic Big Three.
His remarks come at a dinner with a small group of automotive writers and during his speech the next day at the recent Management Briefing Seminars held in Traverse City, MI, an annual gathering of who’s who among auto makers, suppliers and analysts to discuss pressing issues facing the global auto industry.
Fields, who arrived atlast year after stints at and Ford of Europe, says Asians view their domestic auto industry as “strategically important,” and they “root them on to success.”
“This dismal portrayal of Detroit and the cynicism we sometimes have for the home team is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” he says.
In short, Fields believes the media need an attitude adjustment. "I think you're all looking for instant results,” he says. “If you're going to write a positive story about us, your editor is going to say, ‘Show me the money; show me the numbers.’"
Yes, Mr. Fields, good editors do insist on the facts to support a story, regardless of whether it’s damning or glowing. Unlike some journalists in other parts of the world that feel duty bound to support their country’s key industries, American companies and their executives have to earn respect.
For the automotive industry, this is achieved with a steady pipeline of innovative, affordable products; healthy company profits; and a corporate strategy that is both attainable and clearly communicated, so everyone understands.
CEO Carlos Ghosn’s sweeping, yet methodical revival of near-bankruptover the last six years comes to mind, starting with his “180” program in 2004.
The basic tenant called for the sale of 1 million more vehicles in a 12-month timeframe than it sold in fiscal 2001, an 8% operating profit margin and zero net debt in one year of the plan.exceeded its goal by 73,000 units, selling 1.073 million vehicles in the timeframe.
No one is saying the problems at Ford necessarily are of Field’s making. Indeed, the churn of executives over the years has cost the auto maker valuable time in its many revitalization efforts.
But Fields is accountable to Ford’s employees, shareholders and suppliers to make clear his vision of the Way Forward, lest he be portrayed as the master of smoke and mirrors.
Ford lost $254 million in the year’s second quarter, more than doubling the $123 million in red ink it originally reported due to larger pension costs. Sales have slowed and its market share is in decline.
Forgive us our cynicism, but with news like that, it is a waste of time and energy to shoot the messenger.