Tags: Financial Markets | Mexico | michigan | public relations | tesla

Ford Can't Afford to Be Late to Electric Car Party

Ford Can't Afford to Be Late to Electric Car Party
(Mohamed Ahmed Soliman/Dreamstime) 

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017 03:44 PM Current | Bio | Archive

These days, public relations in the automotive industry has become tied to where you build, staff, or — close factories. Ford has been at the center of this maelstrom since the presidential campaign, when then-candidate Donald Trump pegged them as a company responding to his request not to build a factory in Mexico.

That turned out to be a more of a gray area decision than initially announced. Ford woound up paying a bit of a public relations price for apparently reversing its decision.

But, this didn’t seem to phase them. Now, Ford has announced plans to build its next generation of fully-electric automobiles in Mexico, rather than in Michigan as promised in January of this year. 

Around the time of President Trump’s inauguration, Ford said it would invest about $700 million in a plant in Flat Rock, Michigan. The investment was also slated to create up to 700 jobs to build fully electric vehicles. In that same announcement, Ford said it would not build a new small car plant in Mexico.

President Trump called the announcement a victory for his new presidency. Ford CEO Mark Fields agreed, calling the announcement a "vote of confidence" in the incoming administration.

That position shifted rather abruptly not long afterwards. Though not entirely. Now, instead of electric cars at Flat Rock, Ford will be building autonomous vehicles there. Plus, the investment proposed has been expanded up to $900 million, and the number of new jobs has been raised to 850. While Ford has no plans to build a new plant in Mexico, it's sending its electric car-building business to an existing plant.

The public relations perils in this situation are plentiful. There are a lot of angles media can take — and play. They can report some or all of the news, and they can report it only emphasizing selected elements to control the story. If Ford wants to control the narrative, they need to get the entire story out. They need to lead with the larger than expected investment in Michigan.

And the positive spin on moving the electric car business to Mexico? That, actually, is a relatively easy sell as well, if they position that spin the right way. Ford is very late to the electric car party. Both its top competitor, Chevrolet, and upstart Tesla are way out ahead of Ford in manufacturing and, especially in sales of electric cars. To catch up quickly, Ford needs to make a lot of new electric cars. It needs to do so cheaply enough to be sufficiently competitive on price. The answer to that conundrum is, potentially, Mexico.

Ford can tell its customers they have market realities to adhere to, and they can also tout the investment in the Michigan plant as an attempt to both keep its promise and maintain profitability.

Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent public relations 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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RonnTorossian
Ford is very late to the electric car party. Both its top competitor, Chevrolet, and upstart Tesla are way out ahead of Ford, especially, sales of electric cars. To catch up quickly, Ford needs to make a lot of new electric cars. It needs to do so cheaply enough to be sufficiently competitive. 
michigan, public relations, tesla
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2017-44-12
Tuesday, 12 December 2017 03:44 PM
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