How high do carbon monoxide levels coming from vehicle exhaust have to be for them to be “dangerous?” That question might have a murky answer, but at least one American city knows its limits.
The city of Austin, Texas, a defiant blue oasis in a sea of deep red social politics, has drawn an environmental line in the sand. The city has decided to pull all 446 Ford Explorers its police force uses off the streets. The reason? Here’s what APD Chief Brian Manley said:
“We are going to remove the Ford Explorer from the city's fleet, which comprises a large majority part of the APD patrol fleet…”
Manley said the department has experienced severe carbon monoxide troubles for months now, adding that, over five months, more than 60 workers’ compensation claims have been filed by department employees who complained of carbon monoxide exposure. A report on CNN put the number at 62, adding that at least 20 of the officers in question “had measurable levels of carbon monoxide in their systems” when tested. Some of the officers have yet to return to work after leaving on the comp claims.
At this time, the Austin department has taken 69 vehicles off the road, including a combination of Explorers and Utility Interceptors. While the department plans to have all of these vehicles swapped out in short order, the pressure is on Ford now to explain this mess.
For their part, Ford announced plans to investigate the issue, hoping to find a solution to a perplexing problem. In a statement released to the media, Ford said: “safety is our top priority… A dedicated Ford team is working with police customers, police equipment installers, Police Advisory Board members, and NHTSA to investigate reported issues and solve them. Customers with concerns about Explorers and Police Interceptor Utilities can call our dedicated hotline or visit their local Ford dealership.”
Directing concerned customers to contact their local Ford dealership is an interesting move. On one hand, it makes sense. Sending customers to talk to familiar faces at their local dealership might create a positive PR opportunity. That said, it could also backfire. Since no one seems to know what’s really happening with these vehicles, leaving it up to service techs might create more individual public relations issues than it solves.
After all, customers are not going to want to wonder if they or their kids might be getting slowly poisoned by carbon monoxide. They want to know they are safe, and they want to know right now. If Ford can offer that kind of reassurance through its team, this could end up being a solid win for the company, from a PR perspective. However, if they fumble this opportunity … or, worse, if they reassure customers and it turns out to be a false sense of security, this could cause some pretty serious problems.
At this point, there’s no way to call it. Only time will tell.
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent PR Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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