Ex Ford PR Head Says Ford Bugged Phones And Spied On Employees

Illustration for article titled Ex Ford PR Head Says Ford Bugged Phones And Spied On Employees

This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place every weekday morning. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?


1st Gear: All The Chairman's Men I should have actually called this gear "Final Days," but few people have read "Final Days" relative to the number of people who have read "All The President's Men" or seen the movie. But "Final Days" is actually better and gives you insight into just how fucked up the Nixon administration was as it was heading out the door.

Crisis does weird shit to people and no crisis was bigger for Ford than the Firestone debacle which, ultimately, linked to more than 270 lives and set the company back on its heels for years.

According to a new book by former Ford PR head Jason Vines, the company bugged his phone and otherwise ran around in a Nixon-like state of Paranoia with Bill Ford, Jr. in the role of the former President.

Vines recounted a meeting in the office of the company's then-general counsel John Rintamaki that he complained about a boss. Rintamaki turned up the radio in his office and began playing some loud classical music, similar to a scene in the movie "All the President's Men" and whispered to Vines "they're listening."

Asked about Vines allegations about bugging, Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel said in an email: "We are not aware of anything of this nature happening."

Vines also says he asked Ford security to track down leaks to the press. The book suggests Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. was behind leaks to a New York Times reporter during the crisis that eventually led to Nasser's ouster.

I didn't know Vines very well, but from my few interactions and from Ray Wert stories he always seemed like an interesting cat. Weird, but interesting. I reached out to see if we can excerpt a part of the book because I'd like to hear more.

2nd Gear: Some Good News For Ford, Though

Illustration for article titled Ex Ford PR Head Says Ford Bugged Phones And Spied On Employees

Old Ford may be paranoid, but new Ford has every reason to be confident as they beat estimates... even if they were estimates that were lower after Ford telegraphed it had a hard quarter. Still, a win is a win.

Per Reuters:

Ford's launch of its aluminum-bodied F-150 is on track, the company said on Friday. A 3 percent drop in third-quarter revenue to $34.9 billion is largely linked to the planned shutdown of the F-150 plant in Dearborn, Michigan.

Excluding one-time items, Ford reported earnings of 24 cents per share, which beat expectations of 19 cents from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.


What this tells you is that the Ford F-150 is way, way, way more important to Ford than any other Detroit automaker. Look at the impact on Ford's usually shining profit margin in North America (hurt also by recall expenses that mostly fell in the third quarter):

Ford's third-quarter profit margin of 7.1 percent in North America lagged the 9.5 percent that crosstown rival General Motors Co reported on Thursday. Excluding recall costs, Ford's margin would have been 10.2 percent.


I'm not saying you should all run out and buy Ford stock now, because WTF do I know, but Ford is playing a long game here and seems to be content with taking a hit now knowing that they're possibly inline for a huge year when the Mustang and F-150 hit dealerships.

3rd Gear: Handheld Phone Enforcement Doesn't Work

Illustration for article titled Ex Ford PR Head Says Ford Bugged Phones And Spied On Employees

Not surprisingly, a study shows that enforcing cell phone driving laws basically doesn't do shit. Sure, they cut cell phone usage — which is good — but that doesn't seem to have a big impact on the number of crashes.

Again, from David Shepardson, who doesn't seem to sleep and somehow has the output of a blogger:

To determine whether crash rates shrank as a result of the enforcement campaigns, IIHS compared collision claims between counties with high enforcement and nearby counties. IIHS "didn't find a corresponding reduction in crashes reported to insurers from the program counties relative to the comparison counties, even though the rates of cellphone use and texting decreased in both program cities."

"To effectively tackle the problem of distracted driving, we need a broader approach that takes into account the many and varied sources of driver distraction," says Adrian Lund, president of IIHS. "Singling out cellphones may lead drivers to disregard the fact that other behaviors that divert their attention from the road are risky, too. Fortunately, there is both new and old technology to help us address the problem."



4th Gear: Toyota Joins Benz In Pulling Out Of Tesla

Illustration for article titled Ex Ford PR Head Says Ford Bugged Phones And Spied On Employees

Mercedes made about $780 million by selling their shares in Tesla earlier this month and now Toyota will do the same according to Bloomberg:

Toyota and Tesla are nearing the end of sales of the jointly developed RAV4 electric sport utility vehicle after delivering about 2,500 units over more than two years. The two companies are now taking separate paths, with Tesla working to bring the plug-in Model X crossover and a cheaper Model 3 sedan to market. Toyota is preparing to sell its first fuel-cell vehicle, a technology that Tesla’s billionaire co-founder Elon Musk has ridiculed.


Seems to make sense. Also, $600+ million isn't a bad parting gift, especially after they were able to unload NUMMI after the Carpocalypse.

5th Gear: Toyota Is An American Car Company

Illustration for article titled Ex Ford PR Head Says Ford Bugged Phones And Spied On Employees

We've been promised for a while that Toyota would slowly shift towards America and the new Toyota Camry, which even I have to admit looks pretty good, was heavily redesigned in Toyota's Technical Center in Ann Arbor.

Brent Snavely has the story:

The new Camry, which is on its way to dealers now, was substantially restyled and re-engineered by about 400 engineers and designers at the center in York Township. Their role illustrates the growing influence of Ann Arbor-area operations within Japan's No. 1 automaker.

"Our engineering team feels like it has ownership of this car," said Monte Kaehr, Camry chief engineer.

Body panels, suspension, brakes and much of the interior were overhauled for the 2015 model year. All told, about 43% of the parts are new and Toyota executives say almost every tool in the company's plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, had to be changed to make it. But because the chassis, engine and transmission are essentially the same, the 2015 model is not considered a full redesign.


While there are some amazing engineers in Toyota City, a global approach to design is something that a global company needs to do.

Reverse: And It's Been Under Construction Ever Since...

On this day in 1931, eight months ahead of schedule, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicates the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River. The 4,760-foot–long suspension bridge, the longest in the world at the time, connected Fort Lee, New Jersey with Washington Heights in New York City. "This will be a highly successful enterprise," FDR told the assembled crowd at the ceremony. "The great prosperity of the Holland Tunnel and the financial success of other bridges recently opened in this region have proven that not even the hardest times can lessen the tremendous volume of trade and traffic in the greatest of port districts."



Neutral: Who Was The Most Paranoid Auto Exec Ever? I doubt the latest Ford even comes close to the original Ford.


Photo Credit: Getty Images


Gary Yogurt