Instead of building on Ford Motor Co.'s strengths and its old motto, "Quality is Job One," CEO Jacques Nasser has scrapped it all for the New Economy fallacy that constant "change and innovation" are necessary to make money ("Ford: It's worse than you think," Cover Story, June 25). Tell that to Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., which have been building many of the same models for years and which continue to enjoy high owner loyalty (due in part to high resale value). Nasser is the latest in a generation of CEOs focused on upping shareholder value through any means--usually at the expense of the consumer and the employee. By forgetting about the company, its products, and its values, they wind up on the road to ruin.
With his new employee-evaluation system, Nasser has created competition among Ford's employees, instead of cooperation. His new system pits one employee against another in the quest to get an A or B grade and to avoid being terminated. No wonder morale and productivity are down. A better method would be to form teams with missions and goals, with rewards based on the team's performance. This would inspire cooperation among employees. Poorer performers are often able to find their niche as team members and improve their own performance dramatically.
Ed T. Barron
I am the owner of two Fords, two General Motors Co. cars, and one DaimlerChrysler (yes, I am an American car lover). In Ford's defense, I must say that the company has consistently been proactive in informing me of possible service issues with my cars. GM has done nothing similar.
DaimlerChrysler has disclaimed any responsibility for an engine fire and the venting of air-conditioner refrigerants (freon and ozone-depleting gases)--caused by seal contraction--in my Dodge Challenger every time the ambient temperature drops below freezing.
Oakton, Va. Until I read "Why privacy notices are a sham" (Legal Affairs, June 18), I confess that I was one of the uninformed who attempted to understand the first few notices I received and then pitched them in the trash. And the dozen that followed. The fact that not one of the notices enclosed a return envelope also led me naively to believe no response was expected.
Keith B. Johnson
Mansfield Center, Conn.
The "better way" [privacy notification] graphic at the end of the article illustrates the difficulty of communicating clearly. It begins with "Want to protect your privacy?" in big, bold letters. Near the bottom are check-boxes labeled in big, bold letters, "Yes" and "No." But the question in smaller print immediately above the boxes, asks, "Do you want us to continue selling information about you to other companies?" The reader who checks "Yes" because he wants to protect his privacy is, in fact, giving it up. A better way would be to have the answer to both questions mean the same thing.
Fabbian G. Dufoe III
Rather than suffer through the many impenetrable notices arriving in the mail, I took another approach. Who says you have to use their form? My answer was to write up my own notification, size it to fit typical return envelopes, and make copies for insertion into every bill payment and other communication I have. Bingo! The job's done.
Jeffrey R. Adrian
Besides having financial institutions burying opt-out information in legalese, why must I opt-out of marketing programs every time I call the phone company for service?
My pet peeve is supermarket "Club Card" programs. The penalty for opting out of these data-gathering programs is often an extra 15% to 25% on my grocery bill. I can afford to make that choice, but for poorer consumers, it translates into "Opt-in, or your family starves." Hardly a free choice.
This gets even scarier when you consider "What's Next--The Bank of Burger King?" in the same issue (Finance, June 18). Does this mean that in the future we will all have to bank with "The Bank of Safeway" in order to buy groceries?
Thousand Oaks, Calif.
I commend Mike France for his article describing the "gobbledygook" sent by the financial companies to inform their "valued" customers about privacy "protection." I have been inundated and have started questioning my status with these companies. I hope BusinessWeek and your readers can help change this unreasonable practice by alerting the public and our faithful legislators!
Mahwah, N.J. When will the Federal Reserve and our other financial institutions, both public and private, learn a simple truth: One borrows money only when one can make a profit on it ("In a one-world economy, a slump sinks all boats," News: Analysis & Commentary, June 25). Raising interest rates in a period of expansion puts a crimp on growth; lowering rates during a time of retraction will not get a soul to borrow simply for the sake of borrowing. Only if there is an expectation to make money on the money borrowed will one borrow.
About 25 years ago, interest rates hit 20%, and money got borrowed because one could make money on the borrowing. In the 1930s, money could be borrowed for as little as 0.5%--and no one borrowed.
When the Fed lowers interest rates, it helps those who are on margin in the market, but the market does not make for prosperity for most. Only the product of work does that. Therefore, the continuing drop in production does not bode well for the future.
Judson H. Spencer
New York "Ready, Set, Euros!" (International Business, July 2) was very accurate. But you fail to discuss the inherent fragility (perhaps the impossibility) of putting German marks, French francs, Greek drachmas, and Portuguese escudos into the same basket--and soon currencies from economies such as Turkey, Poland, and Lithuania. The euro will not take off until all countries in the European Community have the same degree of development, the same regulations, work rules, and social security benefits, and the same levels of technology, manufacturing, and commerce.
Rio de Janeiro "Global warming needs more than just another study" (News: Analysis & Commentary, June 25) was timely. Psychologists use the "boiled-frog syndrome" to explain how people often underreact to gradual changes. Frogs placed in slowly heated water cannot detect the rise in temperature until it is too late. When will we realize our situation and take action?
Professor of Psychology
Atlanta "Boeing goes lean" (Industrial Management, June 4, in some editions) was an interesting report on the revamping of factories to gain a competitive edge. However, we should be careful when using the word "lean." The term originally meant "poor in quantity or quality." Based on this definition, "lean manufacturing" can be understood as "poor unprofitable production." Of course, people who admire "lean production" do not like this interpretation. They want to use the word in a positive manner while disregarding its historical connotation.
Kyoto May I suggest that you get a "reality check" with the Cadmans in about 10 months, when their "dream abode" should be complete ("Should you tear the darn thing down?" BusinessWeek Investor, June 25). I'll bet you a free subscription to BusinessWeek for the next 20 years that their total cost (including financing costs, landscaping, etc.) will be closer to $150 per square foot, boosting the price to more than $600,000. Of course, the fact that they are in the property-management business gives them an edge (probably good discounts and close-outs) over other people. But a dream house means "top of the line"--unless they are buying out of catalogs and don't window-shop to see what the other (e.g., more expensive) options are.
San Francisco "The health costs of being fat" (Economic Trends, June 25) listed two causes for our increasing collective weight: the declining cost of food and more sedentary employment. There is another, according to the Centers for Disease Control: urban sprawl. It means most trips are made by car instead of walking or bicycling. The rise in our weight correlates with the increase in the use of our cars. Proposed solution: Make our built environment walkable and bikable by mixing land uses, provide transit, and ensure that sidewalks and trails are available for nonmotorized trips.