By soliciting the backing of several Ford dealers, a movement to force Ford Motor Co. to improve its fuel economy ratings and build more hybrid vehicles inadvertently evokes support for the direction Chairman and CEO Bill Ford is taking the family business.
Jumpstartford.com, a coalition of activist groups that have demonstrated at Ford dealerships, presented pre-written letters to dealership managers to sign. The letters were send to Bill Ford.
Part of the letter says, “Instead of leading the industry by introducing advanced hybrid and electric vehicles, Ford has missed opportunities…and is now playing catch up.” The letter urges Ford to increase the fuel economy of its brands.
“I believe in what Bill Ford is doing,” says Tim Brynteson, general manager of Garnsey & Wheeler Ford in Greeley, CO.
Brynteson says he signed the letter presented to him during a protest in May by local college students. “Imagine my surprise to find out they were part of the Rainforest Action Network,” Brynteson now says. “The letter does probably accurately reflect my feelings. But I do believe that Ford is trying to take care of things in the environment. I'm a bit of a greenie myself.”
The Rainforest group has pressured Ford, it says, because Ford has the lowest fuel economy ratings of the Big Three.
Recruited dealers now number nine, says Jennifer Krill, zero emissions campaign director at Rainforest. Showing support for Ford from their dealer recruits is a good thing, she adds.
She says, “Our intent is to enlist the dealers, and the campaign is to convince Ford to do exactly what it is doing now. Yet, we still have more people signing letters asking Ford to do more.
“And Ford has improved over the last couple of years. But the question is whether Ford's rhetoric is matching what is coming off the assembly line, and the answer is ‘no.’”
When a group of young people went to Sid Savarani's dealership last year, telling him of their hopes for improved emissions and fuel economy from Ford, “I agreed with them,” says the owner of Walnut Creek Ford in Walnut Creek, CA. “It's the same direction I would like to see Ford go.”
Savarani signed the letter they presented him. At the time, he says, he was having trouble keeping the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV in stock. Now he has sold a meager dozen in a month.
A group of activists went to Marc Brandt's Sante Fe, NM, dealership and presented the same letter. He promptly signed it.
“I have no problem with signing that letter,” says Brandt, who says he sold an Escape Hybrid to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. “Inside, Bill Ford is very green. But it takes a long time to turn the auto industry into a green industry.”