The good ship Ford has been quite leaky lately. And the automaker is pinning the blame on its suppliers.
Images of the Bronco, Bronco Sport, and Maverick compact pickup have all leaked before those vehicles were introduced (the Maverick, of course, has not yet been unveiled, while the other two have). These images have hit forums — and we’ve sourced those forums for some of our own reporting.
So, naturally, Ford put out a memo, and it was shared with Automotive News. It’s unclear who shared it with the industry-centric publication.
“We cannot underscore enough the negative impact of these unfortunate actions on our collective business results, and we ask for your support to personally follow the confidentiality guidelines inherent in Ford’s Global Terms & Conditions,” Ford said in the memo. It was signed by Jonathan Jennings, the company’s vice president for global commodity purchasing and supplier technical assistance. “Ford has a zero-tolerance policy for leaks emanating from our own team members, and we need all supplier personnel to adopt a similar approach regarding unauthorized disclosures of Ford confidential information.”
Further, Ford set out to make it clear to suppliers that any advantages Ford may have over the competition could be “severely diminished or eliminated altogether through malicious or careless disclosure of confidential information.”
Ford doesn’t allow photos or video of prototypes before official launch. Regardless of whether the vehicle is camouflaged or not, or otherwise covered.
That’s common in the industry — yours truly has had stickers placed over his cell phone’s camera at various visits to automaker properties. Of course, Ford’s rules don’t stop spy photographers, random citizens, and journalists out and about town from trying to snap shots of vehicles testing on public roads. Agreements to not sneak pics don’t apply in the wild.
It’s worth noting, of course, that some of these leaks appeared to come from within plants and other production facilities.
Subcontractors are supposed to abide by Ford’s rules, and Ford apparently singled out Tier 1 suppliers. The company reminded them that they have a “responsibility to have a robust leak prevention plan. Because the damage to our organizations can be significant, Ford will treat confirmed supplier security breaches with heightened scrutiny. Suppliers could face business repercussions and even recovery actions for damages tied to leaks caused or enabled by suppliers.”
AN reached out to Ford and an unnamed spokesperson said the company was: “reinforcing to suppliers and partners, as we have to our own employees, the importance of following strict policies and protocols to protect confidential information.”
Of course, leaks will never be fully stopped. Our experience in 2019 is a reminder of that.