"Our leaders are sick of all the solid information that has been dumped on humanity by honest research and excellent scholarship and investigative reporting. They want to put us back on the snake-oil standard." –Kurt Vonnegut, RS #1007:8/24/06
On September 22, 2005, the Washington Post reported William Clay Ford Jr., chairman and chief executive of Ford Motor Company, announced that his company would increase production of hybrid vehicles "tenfold to 250,000 cars and trucks per year by 2010." The article goes on to quote Ford who said, "He made the decision out of concern for the environment and out of a desire to counter ‘a multi-dimensional energy crisis that afflicts this nation.’ He said that even though the decision posed a challenge because Ford’s vehicles are big and heavy and use a lot of fuel, the automaker had to ‘get on with it.’ "
A little over nine months later, on June 30, 2006, Ford Motor Company took it all back. Accountability, it seems, is only for suckers. Instead, Ford decided it was easier and more profitable -at least for the very short term– to invest in some corporate green-washing. Open any magazine or watch just a minute or two of television and you will be assaulted with the media blitz touting the miracle of flex fuels, the snake-oil of our times.
Corporate arrogance and contempt for the consumer is nothing new. The trouble starts when the meticulously created corporate image clashes with its brutal behavior in the market place. It may come as a surprise to corporate America, but people don’t like to be lied to. Sony found this out when it unleashed the infamous root-kit concealed on audio CD’s released by its music label. Essentially a corporately created virus but billed as anti-piracy software, this malicious bit of code embedded itself in the operating system of any computer a consumer was foolish enough to play the CD on. This back door allowed Sony to spy on customers and left the operating system vulnerable to other outside attacks including zombie takeover attempts. Yeah, "Welcome to the World of Sony."
And then there are the mind boggling PR blunders. Why would McDonald’s ever think it was a good idea to risk its upbeat corporate identity by linking itself to a wounded GM and promote the polarizing Hummer with its Happy Meals? Better yet, GM promoted its controversial Tahoe with a build your own ad contest on the web. Any guesses how that turned out? Here are my two favorite consumer created ads: The Ultimate Padded Cell and Enjoy the Longer Summers.
So, who did kill the electric car? Go see the movie and find out. (Here is a little hint.)
UPDATE: Tell Ford to Stand by Its Hybrid Commitment here.