The Peanut Gallery Wins Battle With Ford's Fields

I hate it when tree watchers win. What do I mean? People who are so intent on staring at the bark on a tree they can’t see that the whole forest is on fire.

Today we learn that Ford president of the Americas Mark Fields caved into criticism from dealers, retirees and some columnists jumping on the burning band wagon that he takes a corporate plane back and forth to his home in Florida on the weekends to see his family.

Fields’s total take in 2005 was $3.2 million, including a $1 million retention bonus to take the job in North America. He was previously head of Ford’s European and the Premier Automotive Group.

In the whole scheme of things, the cost is inconsequential to Ford. The company could pay for it if they stopped providing pads and pens to reporters at media events, and made them bring their own. But it bothered Ford’s backward looking constituencies to no end. The guy negotiated it into his contract as part of his compensation. God knows his options aren’t worth anything.

The guy wanted the perq for a very good reason…to see his family, who lives in Florida, each weekend without having to suffer the inevitable delays connected with Northwest Airlines, and having to burn two hours before the flight takes off…if it takes off. He, understandably, lives in Michigan during the week.

As one Ford official told me today…”Once it became an issue raised by dealers and local media, the ‘optics’ on it were all wrong.” Whatever. This is right up there with right wing blow-hards making hay for days on end out of John Kerry driving an SUV at the same time he is talking about a global warming agenda. It’s so not the point.

Fields probably did the right thing by doing away with the matter so it wouldn’t distract the company any longer. But why this issue rose to the level of being the third-highest item on the home page today is beyond me. It’s madness, especially when there are so many other major issues confronting the company; like its survival.

Fortunately, I don’t watch local Detroit TV news (I didn’t watch it in New York either when I lived there for the same reason…it’s lame), so I won’t have to endure the cheesy stand-ups next to the airport with local media claiming victory that their reporting pressured Ford to make Fields take his shoes off at security with the rest of us.

Next up….will Ford cave to the American Family Association, which continues to boycott Ford for advertising in gay media, and sends out inane and tedious press releases claiming their boycott has been a key driver in Ford’s market share decline?

God help us.

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