It's been a catty week in the automotive world, with Jeep's boss throwing serious shade at Ford. The invectives were unexpected, but the Michigan-based automaker isn't taking it lying down, reports the Detroit Free Press.
In a wide-ranging piece on competition in the off-road market, Ford spokesman Jiyan Cadiz opened with a simple piece of advice: "Stay classy, Auburn Hills." A clear statement directed at Stellantis North America's headquarters, Cadiz went on to point out some home truths, stating "We both know Explorer is America’s all-time bestselling SUV." The spokesman then went on to discuss the source of Jeep's frustration, noting Ford's recent successes in their traditional market.
"I guess it’s been a long year for Jeep watching Bronco and Bronco Sport rack up hundreds of thousands of sales and reservations — and comparison test wins versus Jeep," said Cadiz, adding "...and now comes the rugged and capable Timberline editions of Explorer and Expedition with trail-tested off-road hardware, increased maneuverability, ground clearance, trail modes and accessories."
It's a clean but clear response to the statements made by Jeep boss Jim Morrison, who recently said he "felt sorry" for buyers of the Ford Explorer Timberline. Morrison's assertion was that customers may "get tricked" into thinking the vehicle was more rugged and capable than it really was, and went as far as claiming it didn't measure up to Jeep's own Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.
It follows on from earlier diatribes from Morrison, who took a cheap shot at Ford's ongoing problems with Bronco roofs back in September. Noting the rain at an off-road event, the Jeep boss stated that "I don't think there will be any Broncos here this weekend."
Unlike Morrison, Ford's response hasn't been to denigrate its rival or the quality and capability of its products. Instead, it's taken the opportunity to respond and used it to talk about its own successes.
The statements from Cadiz celebrate the hype and excitement around the new Bronco, and highlights the features of the new Timberline models. It's almost a bare-faced advert in that regard, but it's an approach that very much takes the high ground rather than stepping down into the mud.
Lately, Ford's star is very much rising in the off-road space. In comparison, Jeep is in the unenviable position of being the stalwart defender of a space now besieged by plucky newcomers. With the Bronco coming for the Wrangler, and all manner of new "rugged" SUV trims coming for the rest of the Jeep lineup, the company will be kept busy fending off these challenges to its market share.
This kind of market combat is the bread and butter for hard-boiled auto executives. They are only human, too, so it's natural they'd occasionally tell us how they really feel in the heat of battle. It makes a refreshing change from the usual polished marketing spiels, at the very least.
Of course, sports fans may want to see more of a spectacle, cheering for the war of words to go further. Like any elementary school spat, it's likely to continue flaring up if executives keep getting needled about what their competitors said about them in the press. However, we suspect caution and calm will shortly prevail on both sides, as PR professionals beg their colleagues to stop creating fires for them to put out.
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