Topic: Business & Commercial

Ford’s Parking Space Punishment

The revelation that Ford Motor Company allows only the drivers of Fords to use the best parking spaces at its factories raises a fascinating set of facts for the classic ethics question: is this right?

Is it? As applied to its employees, Ford might argue that the policy is justifiable as a quid pro quo for worker loyalty. Is that reasonable? It isn’t far removed from what winning political parties have done in Washington since the dawn of American democracy: vote for the other guys, and you’re out of a job and a parking space. But the approach could be ridiculous with other companies. Should Phillip Morris give the best office space to employees who smoke? Should Kraft employees forfeit use of the lunch room if they won’t eat cheese?

Encouraging employees to use their employer’s product is natural; penalizing them if they don’t raises issues of fairness. What if the car was a gift: is the employee expected to give it back? What if a car made by a competitor suits the needs of an employee’s family better than anything Ford makes? Ford has a deal with Sirius satellite radio to include it in all of its new vehicles. What if a Ford employee detests Howard Stern, or Sirius itself for paying him 500 million dollars to pollute the airwaves? In a toss-up, that would make me choose a GM car and XM over a car that would give my 11-year-old son access to smirking interviews with prostitutes and strippers.

Safety is a critical concern for those purchasing automobiles, especially families. The safest family sedans, according to road tests, are the Volkswagen Passat GLX (V6), the Toyota Camry XLE (V6), four-cylinder Passat GLS, the Nissan Altima 3.5 SE and the Subaru Legacy. No Fords on that list. Does Ford want to penalize employees who don’t want to put their family members at risk? Will Ford carry through on its parking space punishment on employees who are handicapped? Seniors? Have bad feet? The Scoreboard assumes not; it also assumes that the parking lot policy for non-Fords trumps other markers of loyalty such as seniority and outstanding performance. And that makes no sense at all.

It is reasonable for an employer to encourage and reward loyalty from its employees, and right for employees to provide itÂ…up to a point. Penalizing employees for private choices based on finance, safety, personal taste, special circumstances and other factor is economic bullying, an employer using its power to compel workers to bend to its will. Ford, which is only doing well these days when one compares it’s fortunes to General Motors, has every right to provide incentives to employees to buy their cars, such as employee discount programs. Inflicting lousy parking spaces on otherwise devoted workers because they choose, for their own reasons, not to own a car that a great number of Americans are also choosing not to buy these days is unfair, petty, and wrong.

There is a far more effective and admirable way to accomplish the objective of convincing Ford workers to buy Fords.

Make better cars.

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