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January 23, 2023

Oort Cloud Oddities: Ford

By Alexandra Queen

Ford - Fire Or Recall Disaster

My grandfather used to drive a Ford truck, but that never stopped him from cackling about what the letters stood for. "Found On the Road Dead." "Fix Or Repair Daily." Something about "Only Runs Downhill" that he never did say clearly in front of me.

Ford is more than just a brand of car. It's a piece of American history. Henry Ford revolutionized the United States with his innovations. He implemented a moving assembly line that produced cars quickly and inexpensively. He paid his workers more than twice the normal daily wage, in a planned parenting of consumerism. Henry Ford also pushed heavily for our network of paved roads and highways, and for gas stations to be installed around them, creating an infrastructure and a dependency on gas-powered vehicles that still exists today.

Yes, look around at the lines at the gas stations, the commuters spending 3-5 hours a day in their cars, the busy roads, the smog, all thanks to Henry ...

No, wait, that's not fair. Henry Ford may have pushed us faster, but we were headed this way anyway. Ford Motor Company is still an indelible symbol of Americana. Take the Mustang, for example! A good friend of mine had one on blocks in his yard all through our high school years. On those few occasions he got it running, there was much rejoicing and we were all proud to take a rare ride through town in it.

And what about some of Ford's other popular car models? They produced one of the largest selling subcompact cars in America -- the Pinto. Small, affordable, explosive, everything a car for the general public should be. Under Lee Iacocca's leadership, Ford Company embarked upon a proud tradition of cars that burst into flame. Possibly my favorite moment in Ford Company history is a footnote from the late 70's mentioning how their advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson, quietly revised their ad campaign to drop the slogan, "Pinto leaves you with that warm feeling."

Lee Iacocca was quoted as saying, "My father always used to say that when you die, if you've got five real friends, then you've had a great life." If his dad had lived a little longer, the quote would probably have been, "If you've got five real friends, then have them drive a GM," or even just, "Friends don't let friends drive Fords."

Within the past ten years we've had the Ford Explorer/Firestone debacle, where it was discovered that Firestone tires fall apart under certain circumstances and that Ford Explorers had a tendency to flip over suddenly if one of their tires blew out (sparking a new suggestion for the Ford acronym: "Flip Over, Read Directions"). But again, it was the people at the advertising agencies who suffered most, looking inadvertently stupid as everyone began snickering, "Have you driven a Ford... lately?"

Now we have news that Ford is stuck recalling close to four million pick-up trucks and SUVs. Because, keeping with their themes of heritage and tradition, the engines are bursting into flame. At least they've swooped in and issued a recall rather than trying to cover it up. (And word is they've fired a design engineer named Charlene McGee from their Bangor, Maine division despite her many long years of service to the company.)

What will come of this already struggling company? Are we still America if there is no Ford Motor Company producing cars here? I mean, come on. I'm sure they're not the only manufacturer with vehicles prone to bursting into sudden flame. What about the, uh... give me a second ...

Anyway, Ford is selling off their subsidiary, Hertz (good thing they didn't name it "Burns," huh?), so barring any sudden tire failures, they should be able to survive this bumpy ride. Their ad campaigns are better this time around, too. Unless Mercury's "New Doors Opened" slogan is paired with the image of an emergency exit or fire escape. Or someone shows a man donning an asbestos suit and girding himself with a fire extinguisher with Lincoln's "Travel Well" campaign. Or you're peering under the hood of your Ford wondering what else might go wrong and happen to remember the slogan: "If you haven't looked at Ford lately, look again."

Yeah, scratch that. If Ford is going to have a shot at continuing on for another hundred years, their advertisers need to be fired. Er, sorry. I mean "let go."

Comments and more obscure references to Stephen King's "Firestarter" to Alex.Queen@gmail.com. This article did NOT appear in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin!! Ever!!

Article © Alexandra Queen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-05-14
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