Friday, October 21, 2005

Ford is "dramatically recommitted" to Hybrids

In an article posted yesterday on, there is an article regarding Ford's shift in Advertising strategy to announce that, drum roll please. . ."FORD SHIFTING STRATEGY TO EMPHASIZE HYBRIDS, SAFETY".

Really, are you now doing that. That's wonderful Ford. Thanks for not focusing on safety before, as noted by the recent
$4 million a South Carolina jury has ordered Ford to pay in a Rollover Suit. Why should Ford pay for a woman who was killed when her Ford Explorer Rolled Over? Well, as the article states, because:
"As far back as 1989, Ford Motor Company knew that this Explorer had rollover
problems," Ed Bell, the Hayward family's lawyer, told jurors in Charleston,
"Ford knew of potentially fatal defects during the development and
of this vehicle and chose not to remedy them."

Now, this lawsuit represents one of hundreds if not thousands of lawsuits against Ford right now. In fact, as I write this, I recall an accident I saw last summer, wherein a Ford Explorer, going no more than 35 mph rolled over after hitting a car. Now, I'll be the first to admit that even cars in the proper circumstances could easily roll when going 35 mph if conditions are right. However, what was bothersome to me was the roof and how the A-pillars collapsed, rather than supporting the roof. Please see this picture I took at the scene.

Now, the real kicker is the other car that was involved in the accident. It was barely damaged. The Exploder side-swiped the car and rolled in response. Look at the minimal damage on the other car.

But, I digress.

The point is Ford has failed to prove that Safety ever was an incredibly, sincere, pervasive-in-their-culture concern. Look, we're talking about deliberate disregard by Ford executives when given information that the best-selling SUV in the US (the Ford Exploder, errr, Explorer) has poor engineering in the roof-structure and could be prone to rollover.

Now, I'm not necessarily saying that Ford doesn't make good cars, or that the Exploder isn't a good vehicle for some people's needs. However, I am saying that the U.S. carmakers continue to flop where it really matters.

I fear that Ford, with this "innovation" campaign strategy may be getting suckered into the same PR garbage GM has been pumping out the last 5-6 years.

Now, to quote the article from AdAge:

The campaign’s “Innovation” theme reiterates the Ford heir’s recent speech on
the topic. “Innovation will be the compass that guides this company going
forward,” Mr. Ford says in both the 60- and 30-second spots. He adds that Ford
has “dramatically recommitted” to hybrids, technology and safety.

Now, let's analyze the statement, "Ford has "dramatically recommitted" to hybrids, technology, and safety". I'm sorry, but the word recommitted draws up a bunch of quizzicall looks without any answers. Ok, mr Bill Ford, so what you really meant to say was, "we really kind of just dragged our feet along for a while. You know, we didn't care too much about safety, the environment, or safety, but you know, we all make mistakes. But, one day, I, yes, me Mr. Bill Ford had this great idea. Let's become innovative, recommit to developing hybrids (since Toyota and Honda have been kicking our butt with hybrids since their introduction in 2000)."

So it has taken Ford a while to respond to the competition. Granted, they do have some hybrids in their lineup, such as the Hybrid and Mariner. But, come on, who's kidding who? Why do you have to recommit? Surely you've been developing all this technology from the beginning. Right?

I'm not stating that Ford isn't developing their Safety, Technology, and Hybrids. However, why do you have to remind us about this through a PR/Advertising campaign. Why don't you spend your limited funds (given their most recent $1+ billion quarterly loss) on more valuable things such as new product, that will entice buyers.

Most customers these days are tired of the hyped up crap of automotive companies. What matters most to the customer is what they can buy on the lot, today, tomorrow, or in a couple months. We don't want to be told about some Revolutionary Strategy Shift in your company that you're going to start offering products that adress the issues I care about. Give me product and prove it, not some commercial stating such. And until then, I'll drive my import car; because, though it may not be as efficient as a hybrid, it is safer, more reliable, and at least equals all the "technology" any domestic vehicle offers in its class.

All I have to say is: Wow Ford, I can't wait to see what all this dramatically recommitted strategy is going to produce next. Yay!!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

China Business and Censorship - Free Information for All!!

Well, we have all experienced, have been influenced by, or have lost jobs to China. The country is a veritable powerhouse that refuses to sit down. I visited China earlier this year and was taken back by the incredible entrepreneurship I witnessed (though, "eagerness to make a quick buck" may be more appropriate). Now, I think, in the future, the Chinese will wisen up and begin to more effectively communicate and deal with Western Civilization. But, right now, the Chinese are eager to "buy low, sell high", regardless of what brand may be on the product, regardless of who the buyer of the product is. In other words, as long as they are selling the Nikes for more than cost, they could care less who the buyer is, even if it isn't Nike. The counterfeit industry is enormous, and is continuing to grow.

But, China isn't the only culprit, recently,
Spyder Ski Company intercepted counterfeit product coming from Russia. My conclusion on China is this:

China is full of eager factories and people ready to produce goods. However, these people lack the formal business management education in the West. Hence, they are trying to play in a formal business environment without the proper skills or knowledge of how this environment functions. BUT, as soon as they get the proper knowledge and education, WATCH OUT, because they could clean our clocks.

See, the Chinese see America as their opportunity to make it big. It's as if they have this idea that, "Just if I could get an American to import my product, I'll become rich". And, the basis of their thoughts are from other manufacturers they've seen becoming overnight millionaires from some American contract.

Where they fail to see the point is the true competitive landscape of America. In addition, they don't understand competitive advantages. What I mean is: Unless the Chinese supplier has a competitive advantage compared to other factories in China, then they don't have any advantage in the U.S.

They argue that a competitor Factory XYZ is selling thousands of Widget A. Therefore, if you, American, buy thousands of Widget A from me, then you can sell them in America just like Factory XYZ's customer. They don't understand that if Factory XYZ's customer is buying product from them in volume, then that customer already has the distribution channels set up in the States. They have the connections, the brand, the distribution, the marketing. So, I'm on a level playing field as soon as I import the Widgets. So, unless the factory in China has a competitive advantage to Factory XYZ, and therefore sells to me at a lower cost, I have no advantage in the States.

I know, I know, this sounds incredibly rudimentary and basic. You know what, it is!! There is nothing novel with what I just explained. Yet, for the Chinese, that logic just doesn't register. They just don't get it. At least not yet. But, as they become more educated, it will register. Boy will it register!!

But, alas, their government once again attempts to
censor their information. But, there is hope for them. They can achieve their knowledge, albeit rather dangerously. As Marketing Vox blog reports, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has released a new handbook for the "Cyber-Dissidents". This handbook offers information on how to get around China's "clever mix of investment, technology, and diplomacy" censorship efforts.

I sure hope this made sense, because it is late, and I'm tired.

John Koten at Cleveland Ohio

John Koten - Editor in Chief of Inc and Fast Company addressed business owners in Cleveland Ohio. You can find the podcast HERE

Following are some of my notes from listening to this podcast:

Only two things that kill a business

· Ego
· Fear

Their opposites are:

· Excellence
· Humility

Entrepreneurship views the world marketplace as a blank canvas rather then a fully developed picture.

Entrepreneurship is both Concept and Execution

Entrepreneurs are sometimes:
· Impolite
· Frustrating to deal with
· Talk more than they listen

Entrepreneurs see the world as they want it, they don’t like the word ‘no’, they don’t like authority when it is forced on them.

If a business owner’s business hankerings do not make his/her spouse nervous, he/she is not an entrepreneur.

Cultures have come here to help us develop our entrepreneurial and capitalistic model. Only America has a cross-cultural model of entrepreneurship.

There is a triangle with the creative class on one side, the entrepreneurship class on the other side, and small-business on the bottom.

In Vietnam & China, there is a unique coop mentality where they avoid conflict, and they’re in each other’s business. They don’t need to keep their property separate. The U.S. allows us to own property, capitalize on that property, and keep that property as our own. In China, they think property belongs to the world. They don’t see a need for protecting individual property. If the property, technology, etc exists, then anyone should be able to use. Things in the world belong to everyone. This is a major problem, and how we solve that problem will affect how successfully we work with China.

Massive government regulation in the US undermines the American entrepreneurial capitalistic model by unwittingly encouraging giant businesses which then become bureaucratic like Microsoft, with a lot of money, but hasn’t created anything overly innovative for a long time. We’ve done this because of our fear that if we turn the power over to large, massive, powerful organizations, then they will hurt people. And we feel it’s up to the government to stop these organizations from abusing their power. As a result, these regulations are onerous for small entrepreneurial organizations and only huge corporations have the resources and lawyers to comply with such regulations. An example, Sarbanes-Oxley has created enormous red tape for small businesses to comply with. As such, many small businesses are spending millions just to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley.

We don’t have the model or the metrics to understand why one entrepreneurial model works and another fails. Academia still hasn’t truly identified how to assess any given entrepreneurial model. There really is no defined science to analyze entrepreneurial ventures to determine which ones will be successful and which ones won’t.

Click HEREto listen to the podcast.