DETROIT (Sept. 11, 2001) — Ford Motor Co.´s voluntary replacement of 13 million Firestone tires—intended to win support in the marketplace—has caused many owners of competitive makes to view the company more harshly.
However, a large majority of current owners of Ford trucks say their opinion of the company has stayed the same or improved since Ford announced the $2.1 billion campaign in May.
"The tire replacement program is having a much greater negative impact with non-Ford owners (than Ford owners)," said Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans.
Thirty-three percent of non-Ford owners say their opinion of Ford dropped after the tire replacement program was announced, according to the company´s research.
In other words, Ford´s commitment to a customer-first strategy, ironically, is undermining its standing with many consumers.
Ford´s reputation has taken a "substantial" hit, said Ford spokesman Jason Vines. "At the end of the day we are getting pummeled for having that customer focus."
Changing the corporate culture at the company is the linchpin of the administration of Ford CEO Jacques Nasser. He wants to create an "open and transparent" company in which employees consider customers in all business decisions.
Mr. Nasser´s strategy, in part, propelled the decision to voluntarily replace the 13 million tires that Ford engineers consider potentially faulty.
Ford research indicates:
* One-third of owners of competitive makes of cars and light trucks say their opinion of Ford declined after the tire replacement announcement.
* Ford Explorer owners are less harsh. Eighty-three percent of Ford Explorer owners say their opinion of the auto maker has remained the same or improved since the May announcement.
* Eighty-six percent of those owning other Ford light trucks report the same or better opinion of the company after the announcement.
The action is having little ill effect on the satisfaction levels reported by Ford vehicle owners. Ninety percent of Explorer owners and 93 percent of those owning other Ford trucks say vehicle satisfaction is unchanged or increased after the tire replacement announcement.
The discrepancy between Ford and non-Ford owners exists because non-Ford owners do not have the reassurance that comes from dealing firsthand with the company, Mr. Vines said.
"We´ve been the No. 1 news story basically for 14 months," he said. "People not currently shopping us are not being taken care of so they don´t know the company. With our own owners and customers the trust level is there."
Despite the poor marks from car shoppers, Mr. Vines said, maintaining a customer focus remains Ford´s "guiding principle."