Ford made the busy month of January even more exciting when they asked my company, Clever Girls Collective, to find 25 green and tech bloggers to participate in a Ford-hosted Driving Green event during the North American International Auto Show.
In Detroit. In January. Brrrr!
Despite the spectre of frigid temps, we were delighted to say yes, and quickly put together a kick-ass roster of talented and thoughtful Clever network car enthusiasts.
I have a long history with Ford, which includes a fabulous "40 Whatever" trip in a Ford-provided Mustang with my business partner (and BFF) Stefania, a side-story with Fake Scott Monty (more about him at the end), plus a family that only drove Fords for the first 25 years of my life, and for 50 years before that. Scott Monty, the head of social media for Ford, is a leader in social media strategy and execution, so it's always a bonus to work with him on a project.
That's a long way of saying, I was already a fan and excited to join the group as a green blogger, and to represent Clever Girls Collective. But as always, my opinions are my own.
Three Things Ford Gets Right
1. Ford talks to women
For one thing, Ford reached out the Clever Girls Collective network, which is predominantly women, to include 25 of our members in the Driving Green event. We sent (including me) 23 women and 2 men. Ford invited another 75 participants, most of whom were from major sites like Fast Company, Gizmodo, and the New York Times.
I give Ford huge props for including the Clever network bloggers, who have (relatively speaking) smaller, but highly engaged audiences. It speaks volumes about their understanding of how women make major purchasing decisions: We discuss it with our friends.
This inclusive attitude toward women was also noticeable at the Auto show itself. Ford set up a very nice "private" lounge area for the bloggers, where we could recharge our electronics, get lunch and cold drinks. Thoughtful. Good hosting.
They also brought in several senior executives to do interviews with us in that lounge -- everyone had a chance to speak one-on-one with them, regardless of the size of our publication or audience. Also, there were no restrictions on what we could ask.
It was dramatic to go from that environment to rest of the auto show, where few (if any!) of the women were acknowledged or engaged by other car companies. One other car company did a little online outreach, and invited several of the bloggers to their hospitality suite, which was smart. But once we got there, she was the only person we spoke with -- and she was from the PR company, not the car company itself. She was very well informed about the product, but it was a far cry from getting to ask Ford's head of sustainable design about alternative fabric choices.
When the car dudes in charge of standing around the Boss heard about Lisa being a 20+ year Mustang driver, they figured out a way to get her in the car, and cheered for her. (It's hard to see, but her smile in the photo above is about 10,000 watts!)
Then when they heard Alicia, who has a white Mustang at home, say how jealous her husband would be if she got to ride in it, they grinned and put her in the car, too. It was pure American-Muscle-Car-Geek to American-Muscle-Car-Geek understanding -- no gender required.
- Did the Sprockets team at Mercedes do that for me? No. I did not merit a single raised eyebrow, never mind a chance to tell them why I want a gull-wing someday.
- Ditto for the über-coolios at the Volkswagon area, which was like walking into an Apple store. Hello! I'm your target market!
- Toyota was not interested in my feedback on the Prius. I couldn't even figure out who was working that section.
- At Mini Cooper, I had to interrupt the conversation of a couple of "nice" young women to get a press kit, which they handed over without a word to me.
So thank you, Ford, for noticing that women drive -- and buy -- cars.
Talking about the green and sustainability program at Ford is a long post. They have multiple hybrid options, with more on the way. Their Eco-boost technology for the internal combustion engine is available on most models. They are doing interesting and innovative things with diesel in European markets. And they're launching their electric vehicle program -- which recharges in three hours! -- and partnering with Best Buy to make it easy to install the chargers.
They even got Ed Begley Jr. to be their celebrity talking head for the eco-versatility of their green technology. Talk about eco-credentials!
Bottom line: Unlike any other car company, Ford gives you a choice of vehicles to support your green lifestyle. You can match your car to fit your life, not the other way around.
- Sue Cischke, Group Vice President of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, (See? A senior woman executive!) addressed the group and emphasized that Ford looks at three dimensions in their sustainability program: Environmental, Economic and Social. I particularly appreciate the social aspect, which includes working conditions and human rights. In real life, it involves things like making sure that their suppliers adhere to the same high standards for child labor laws as official Ford facilities.
- In addition to having the world's largest green roof on the historic Rouge Factory, in Detroit, that location also has an orchard, with a bee hive for pollination, next to the parking lot.
- They make foam for car seats out of soy instead of petroleum.
- At the auto show, Ford brought in eco-legend Stewart Brand for a special private presentation. He discussed energy and nuclear power and all kinds of non-car related topics. Because they care about innovation and creative thinking, and they thought we'd be interested in hearing what this visionary had to say. They were right.
3. Ford is creating jobs here in the U.S.
At the press conference at the auto show, Ford announced that they will be creating 7,000 new jobs in eight locations across the U.S. through 2012.
Over the years I've had a chance to talk to several individuals who work for Ford in different capacities, ranging from very technical jobs to marketing to production. It's impressive to see how many women are in senior roles at Ford, and how many people choose to spend the majority of their career at the company. If it was just one or two women, or a few happy sales people, I would suspect a plant or creative staging to create a good impression. That's just not the case.
In the factories, in headquarters, in the research and development facilities, Ford is a place where smart contributions -- from men and women -- are valued. The people I've met are proud to be part of a historic company and they want to keep building the Ford legacy.
As an organization, Ford is doing a good job creating the next chapter of that legacy. They didn't take bail out money, they invest in research and technology for new and innovative fuel solutions, and their executive Chairman of the Board, Bill Ford, is a noted environmentalist.
Now 7,000 more people will get a good job, work for a responsible company, contribute to our economy and help to keep our country strong.
That's pretty irresistible. I mean, you have to support a company that does all of that, plus puts out a great product, right?
And that's why Ford is confident enough to open the doors to nosy chatterboxes like bloggers. They know that we're going to value the geniune effort and high quality. And we'll tell all of our friends, like I'm doing now.
My Life in Fords
Right now I "drive" a Prius, because when I bought it that was the only hybrid option. Now that Ford has so many green choices, and I've had a chance to get to know more about the company, I'm definitely considering them for my next auto purchase.
As I said at the start of this post, I have a long personal history driving Fords. In addition to all of my friends' Escorts in high school and college, I've spent time in these family cars:
- Pinto Wagon
- Fairmont wagon (three different ones: "Baby Blue", the "Peach Panther" and pale yellow with "wood" panels, in which I failed my first driving exam, and then passed the second one)
- Taurus wagon
- Taurus sedan
- Plus the pretty red Mustang and the muscular Taurus SHO with Eco-Boost, which Ford lent to Stefania and me, and which we almost stole and drove home to California.
Thanks for all of the good years, Ford. I'm looking forward to many more!
During the Driving Green event, "Fake Scott Monty" approached several attendees, soliciting money and iTunes cards to "help him visit his sick grandmother in Palm Springs." This appears to have been an attempt to escape the Detroit winter ahead of a major snow storm, and at this time his whereabouts are unconfirmed.
Fake Scott Monty has a confidential medical condition, which at times requires that he receive commercial grade air transfusions. Also, prolonged exposure to extreme cold conditions can lead to existence-threatening deflation.
His family, including his "brother" Real Scott Monty, have expressed deep concern over Fake Scott Monty's extended absence. Any information -- real or imaginary -- that leads to his recovery will be deeply appreciated.
Ford Motor Company paid for my travel and accommodations at the 2-day Driving Green Technology event. Although Ford and Ogilvy are clients of my company, Clever Girls Collective, I was not personally compensated in any other manner for my time. All of the opinions posted here are my own. Clever Girls Collective endorses Blog with Integrity, blog transparency and full disclosure, as I do.