Has being "Green" almost destroyed Ford?
Yes, at least in the opinion of one commentator, Tom Borelli of the National Center for Public Policy Research.
According to Borelli, Ford’s current problem are not merely the result of incompetent financial decisions, but are also the product of the commitment to environmental and politically liberal causes by Ford which were promoted by Ford’s former president, William Clay Ford, Jr., under the name “corporate social responsibility” (CSR).
Among the most egregious mistakes made by Ford, in Borelli’s view, was “declaring war” on its own bread-and-butter product, the SUV. Rather than confront global warming activists, Ford elected to kowtow to them in 2000 by issuing a report stating that SUVs contribute to global warming more than other vehicles. Ford, Jr. was reportedly afraid that standing up to the global warming activists would be bad for the company’s image. So he decided that Ford would be the “most environmentally responsible automaker.” Two years later, Ford signed onto the “Carbon Mitigation Initiative,” thereby agreeing that carbon dioxide in vehicle exhaust contributes to global warming.
The core problem with Ford’s appeasement of its political enemies is the inconsistency between what it says and what it does. Effectively, Ford portrayed its own most profitable vehicles as the primary enemies of the environment. Having made that concession, Ford’s continued production of those vehicles was easily portrayed by environmentalists and “global warming” activists as socially irresponsible. In effect, Ford was conceding that it was deliberately damaging the environment.
That was not, in reality, the way to avoid damaging the company’s public image.
But Ford, along with other carmakers, still hasn’t learned this lesson. Earlier this year, both Ford and General Motors joined the “United States Climate Action Partnership.” The stated goal of that organization is to get the “federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” By joining, the automakers have accepted the implicit premise of the group: that corporations, especially car makers, are venal and malicious entities who must be controlled by the government because otherwise they will deliberately destroy the environment. As a subsidiary premise, of course, the automakers acknowledge that their products are the primary cause of global warming.
The end result of Ford’s “corporate social responsibility?” Ford, and other automakers who have similarly indulged their enemies, have missed the opportunity to defend their products and their customers’ right to choose those products. Instead, they have allowed themselves and their products to be portrayed as anti-social, and have actually participated in creating that image.
Of course, Bill Ford, Jr. isn’t the first Detroit auto executive to make these mistakes. To the contrary, he’s just the one most visible recently. The automakers have been afraid to stand up for themselves ever since James Roche, then president of General Motors, sent private investigators to follow Ralph Nader, only to be caught at it and forced by a Congressional subcommittee to publicly apologize to Nader. GM’s management was so cowed by the experience that it completely failed to defend the Corvair against Nader’s bogus charges, thereby allowing Nader’s phony engineering claims to stand uncontradicted and inviting federal regulation of the auto industry.
It is said that a wise man is one who does not make the same mistake twice. It is also said that insanity may be defined as doing the same thing over and over, and expecting the result to be different. Applying those standards to top managers of the domestic automobile industry does not flatter them.