By on July 21, 2011


Earlier this year when it seemed that a price war could be brewing in the US market, one of TTAC’s industry sources noted that the problem wasn’t strictly a question of business competition. Speaking on background, the source told us that

when speaking with old friends at Ford and GM, the level of mutual distaste for each other is very high…it seems to be getting personal. Lots of egos involved, [which] increases potential for short-sighted decision-making

At the time, I was willing to chalk up this animosity to the usual industry hyper-competitiveness (or at least a return to form after the lockstep mutual support of the bailout era), but it seems I should have paid more attention to our source’s concerns. As it turns out, the bad feelings between Detroit’s cross-town rivals has apparently gotten worse…

Jalopnik reveals that NYT auto reporter Bill Vlasic’s forthcoming book highlights just how uncivil the Ford-GM rivalry has become:

What [Ford marketing boss] Jim Farley really wanted to do was kick the daylights out of General Motors. “I’m going to beat Chevrolet on the head with bat,” he said with a slightly wicked smile. “And I’m going to enjoy it.” There was a saying going around Ford: GM was like the kid who was born on third base and yells out, “Hey Ma, I hit a triple!” Farley and his fellow Ford executives and workers were ready to rumble.

…This was like the glory days again — Ford versus GM, let the better car company win. “We’re going to beat on them, and it’s going to be fun,” said Farley. “F—- GM. I hate them and their company and what they stand for. And I hate the way they’re succeeding.”

Now I understand why people are forever accusing TTAC of “hating” one car company or another… it seems that behind a thin veneer of professional courtesy, the auto industry nurtures a viciously competitive streak that crosses into hatred and contempt for competitors. What a pity it is that competition isn’t enough any more, and that executives have to “hate what their competitors stands for” to motivate themselves. Isn’t taking pride in your own products and achievements enough?

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32 Comments on “It Turns Out GM And Ford Really Don’t Like Each Other...”


  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    When trash-talking like that meets automotive marketing it raises fear in me as to where the industry and the country are going.

    Re. the rivalry, since the early 80′s the pity of this rivalry has been for each of the participants to triumph their successes and downplay their shortcomings by measuring themselves across town, rather than measuring themselves by true BIC-benchmarks. Even if they were using BIC-b internally for development purposes, it is more likely than not, that the marketing and public-statement benchmarks are against the cross-town enterprises. This represents a kind of willful denial and misrepresentation of reality.

    More Motown Myopia.

    • 0 avatar
      WorksForFordGuy

      @ Robert.Walker – Never fear, Smith is here…seriously, as one whom works there, I would not worry too much about what Farley says. Need to undersatnd most of it is to motivate troops in feild and also dealers (mostly in NA) and is regarding regional sales efforts & campaigns, like F 150 sales campaigns. It’s not related or tied to product planning – Ford is not chasing market share anymore, only profits.

      Ford beachmarks against all competitors – I worked at product development center last year, and saw evidence of it everyday. If GM has a BIC product, then you can bet Ford will benchmark it, but the same goes for every other BIC product for every other company in every other product catagory Ford competes in….the 80′s are gone. Ford knows exactly whom the best are in each product catagory – most of the attention is turing away from Japan and towards companies in US of A and other Asian (i.e. Korea & China) countries.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        In principle, what you say is true, on the strategy- and product-development level I participated in many BIC studies and knew well both he Benchmarking Lab (in the basement of the Body Engineering cum PDC, as well as the similar facilities in Cologne and Hiroshima), or the Weight Engineering Ctr (over on Commerce Drive; does it still exist?)

        I agree that with One Ford, the focus is where it rightly belongs, on inventory control and profit over share, but the eternal risk is the desire to be number 1, and it takes a while to sustainably implant the idea that nearly number 1 in profits is far better than number 1 in units pushed out the door.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Jim Farley sounds like a reasonable and level-headed gent that knows when to keep his mouth shut and how not to sound like a drunk college kid going to a rivalry football game.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    “F—- GM. I hate them and their company and what they stand for. And I hate the way they’re succeeding.”

    ridiculous

    Ford and GM are two sides of the same coin. They shouldn’t be all that worried about each other but more the impending tide from the east.

    They both make good products, they both make substandard products.

    • 0 avatar
      sitting@home

      What the heck does “hate” mean ? It’s like the kid who came 10th in the class exam saying he hates the kid who got one point more and came 9th. Meanwhile those at the top of the class just roll their eyes at the kids squabbling at the back and get on with the real work.

  • avatar
    mike978

    I am not that surprised. Proximity breeds dislike or hatred – BMW vs Mercedes, Renault vs Peugeot and in sports it is very common – Duke vs UNC, OSU vs Michigan.

  • avatar
    Toad

    Good for Farley! It’s about time somebody in Detroit wanted to kick some ass instead of kiss some.

    Detroit has enough executives that sound like DMV branch managers; if Ford has some managers who want to beat their competitors with a baseball bat that will be better for consumers.

    Name a company founder/executive that wants to grow their business (Jack Welch, Steve Wynn, Larry Ellison, and on) and they sound a lot like more like Farley. Does Microsoft like Oracle? Does HP like Apple? Does Google like Facebook? A little hatred can be very motivating.

    If a little trash talk is scary to you buy a Chevy.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I’m a native Detroiter, and have been an observer and senior-management level participant in the industry for nigh on 45 years, and I can tell you, that Machismo, Bravado, are both compensating behaviours, lead-ins to Hucksterism, and harbingers of things not good (like diversionary tactics, loss of focus, denial of reality and responsibility).

      Every time somebody starts stroking their testosterone in public, something is wrong inside, and in the meantime, others are sneaking in to eat their lunch … (like when the two big dogs are busy fighting, the little dog runs in and steals the morsel)…

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        I’m a native Detroiter, and have been an observer and senior-management level participant in the industry for nigh on 45 years…

        Maybe your approach and attitude is why the domestic auto industry has been in the toilet for the past 45 years. When something has not been working for at least 4 decades change is called for. Maybe a little bravado, hucksterism, and testosterone will motivate the troops.

        If I had to choose between betting on the team that wants to kick their competitors ass and the one that does not, I’ll bet on the team with bravado every time.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        When something has not been working for at least 4 decades change is called for.

        You mean like this decades-old Ford-Chevy rivalry?

        The real competitive threat is, and has for a long time been from, Asia. Ford focusing on Chevy makes about as much sense as it would have been for the Allies to fixate on beating Lithuania in WWII. GM is not much of a contender.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      If a little trash talk is scary to you buy a Chevy.

      I will. Well, maybe not a Chevy, but I sure won’t be getting a Ford.

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        If your avatar picture is an indication of your preferences, your mind was made up long before Jim Farley hurt your feelings with his naughty words.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        If your avatar picture is an indication of your preferences…

        Of course. Having an Opel OPC as my avatar obviously showed that I have it in for Ford.

        So now it’s a happy Santa Claus wanting to give Jim Farley a big hug so he won’t want to go around bludgeoning and f*cking rival auto brands.

        Hopefully TTAC doesn’t run any stories on non-Christmas holidays though because then I’ll to change my avatar again if I want to comment.

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        Sorry I poked a little fun at you and hurt your feelings. I hope good ol’ Mr. Santa Claus brings you a nice thick skin this Christmas, I think you could use it.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        @Silvy_nonsense:

        “A little fun”?! You had me in tears for most of the day! You should have known from my reaction to Jim Farley being mean to GM how easily my feelings can be hurt.

        I guess, because you apologized, I can put on some Celine Dion, pour myself a glass of blush wine, and try to put all this ugliness behind me.

  • avatar
    tech98

    It would be good if fiece rivalry translated into outdoing each other with better and better products; more likely this will manifest itself in bombastic advertising wars.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      More likely with cash on the hood.

      Progression of these things is Bombast, Ad-blast, Spiff-splurge…

      It is very easy to loose discipline and restraint.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    so, two major companies competing fiercely for the same customers don’t like each other? what is tomorrow’s news story? BMW and Mercedes don’t like each other? Scandalous….

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “This was like the glory days again — Ford versus GM, let the better car company win.”

    Meanwhile, over at Hyundai…

  • avatar
    uncleAl

    This is the US today.
    Left vs Right, Rich vs Poor, Us vs Them, etc., etc. Every day here on TTAC and the rest of the web.
    Let us all keep hating on our long slide to being just another 3rd world craphole.

    • 0 avatar
      ttiguy

      +1

      So true. The people (media, politicians, etc.) spouting off these opinions may or may not even believe in what they say. But it doesn’t matter, the goal is simply to gain attention and therefore profit. Meanwhile we are headed straight down the toilet as we waste our lives bickering.

    • 0 avatar
      stationwagon

      like many polls have shown americans agree on so many issues, but the media portrays public figures as ridiculously extremist (on both sides) and that makes everyone think that their supporters are also ridiculously extremist. The only unbiased, as real as it gets media is C-SPAN.

    • 0 avatar
      Loser

      Right on the money!

  • avatar
    pdieten

    Just as long as this doesn’t cause problems for that joint-venture 6-speed transmission they’re both using……

    I’m not too worried. He’s a marketing guy. I expect marketing people to sound like idiots. It’s what they’re best at.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    I don’t blame Ford people for feeling contempt for GM. After failing in the marketplace, Uncle Sam swoops in, mops up all the red ink, tears up longstanding bankruptcy law, and plugs in a big green bottle of life support. Ford had its problems which they (appear to have) worked out on their own. And then to compound things, the gov’t handed the bulk of the company to the UAW, so now Ford is put in the position of having to negotiate a labor agreement essentially with its own competitor.

    And please do not mistake me for a Ford fanboy. After the last 2 turds they sold me if they died tomorrow I’d be first at the graveside unzipping my fly.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Does anybody else here remember when just the Chevrolet division of GM was bigger than all of Ford Motors combined? I think I was in high school at the time that I read this, and it really drove home how incredibly large GM was overall. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

    But as to this guy’s comments? What else is new? This kind of thing has been going since the beginning of corporate time. What’s different is the environment that we live in today where nothing can be assumed to be private.

  • avatar

    The thing that bothers me most about this is that GM is the target of Ford’s hate. Don’t you think you would be better off motivating your troops against someone that is actually stealing your market share?

    Its like a high school student competing against a special ed kid. Sure it feels good to get a better grade on the test, but wouldn’t you rather try and beat the honor student?

  • avatar
    eldard

    I don’t like these two either.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Farley has said really stupid things before: (2007) “Ford Edge is a great example of our plan to build products people really want to buy.”


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