Resist Trump — dump Ford (and ignore the Super Bowl hype)

A Sunday Super Bowl ad touts Ford's new vision -- for a car-driven, non-union future. SF shouldn't be fooled

San Francisco and the Bay Area remain a bellwether for progressive human rights, peace, labor, and environmental values. Just about everyone in San Francisco is against Trump, and the display of resistance at SFO last week demonstrates that people here recognize the stakes are high.

Looks cool, right? There's more to the story
Looks cool, right? There’s more to the story

This isn’t just about an egoistical boob. This is about a vindictive and mean dark place, a future of plundering and ecological collapse, of deeper inequity and polarization, of ramped-up privatization, intense surveillance and roundups. And it will go darker if this is not resisted. We need ways to resist and there are many.      

Let’s take as an example a recent entry into San Francisco’s transportation scene – Ford Motor Company. Ford is making big moves in San Francisco and we should resist — because the things Ford are promoting are antithetical to San Francisco values. Ford also collaborates boastfully with Trump.

Here’s what’s at stake. Ford has recently announced “Go Further,” a marketing campaign promoting the company’s new mobility vision of connected driverless cars and techno-savvy problem solving. The campaign will get a boost during Sunday’s Super Bowl, so millions are about to see it.

San Francisco is the centerpiece of this new vision, and Ford is sponsoring bike sharing and has acquired a private mini-bus start-up called Chariot. Ford is setting up shop in Silicon Valley with a new driverless car outfit. E-bikes are also in the mix.   

These all might seem like shiny new green things we all like and think we need, but they raise important questions about what kind of city we envision for the future. There’s a lot of greenwashing going on in Ford’s campaign, and recent examples of animated future visions suggest Ford has no clue about the needs of utilitarian cycling, nor cities. 

Ford’s long game is about selling cars – albeit in a centrally controlled, elitist, digitally “geofenced” futurist city dominated by driverless cars. That city is also hyper-privatized and de-unionized – including privatizing all transit and shifting to private corporate buses and driverless cars. Before Trump there were enough red flags to warrant objection, but now Ford boasts openly of collaborating with Trump.

It started just days after the election, when Ford, along with other car companies, wrote Trump asking for “regulatory relief” from the Obama Administration’s hard-fought clean car regulations. Obama’s rules require cars get 54-miles per gallon by 2025. Ford wants to dial that back in order to sell more gas-guzzling SUVs. This comes after Obama provided Ford with subsidy and ample time to improve fuel economy.   

Ford is asking Trump for relief from California’s stronger emissions controls, also to sell more SUVs.  This is not just an affront to San Francisco, but to the entire state of California.

Ford is asking Trump to expedite environmental review for its new factories. The rush to build these factories will definitely provide some jobs, although automation will dampen labor’s hope. The loser will be clean air and clean water.

Ford’s top executives praise Trump. Bill Ford, chairman of Ford and great grandson of Henry Ford, boasted of his easy access to Trump stating “When needed, I can always get to him or he calls me.” Ford CEO Mark Fields is enthusiastic about working with Trump.

Do we do business with collaborators who are antithetical to San Francisco values? No. San Francisco should resist Trump by dumping Ford. Rescind the Ford sponsorship of bike share, ban privatized transit from our streets, protect workers and the environment, and tell Ford to keep its driverless car fantasy parked. If we believe 7,000 bikes are a regional priority, which I do, use MTC’s road fund, and fund transit expansion as well. It is going to be a rough ride, for sure, but we don’t need a ride from Ford.

Jason Henderson is a professor of geography at San Francisco State University and author of Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco

23 COMMENTS

  1. How have automobile companies caused an inadequate MUNI? In England 63% get to work by automobile. Every developed nation I have been in roads are jammed with vehicles. However, it is true than in more densely populated cities there is more transit. That is true for US cities also. More people drive to work in London 31%. than drive to work alone in New York City 24%. In some Asian cities there are a lot of private vehicles providing transit.

  2. Transplant is not a pejorative; not an ad hominem. Most everyone in SF came here from someplace else; mostly talented young adults who benefited the City. They are generally more talented than those who were born here. I don’t see the gentrification they caused as negative but as positive.

    To answer your question, I was born here. I was “planted” 74 years ago.

  3. All the means of transport you mention are prioritized because of the inadequacies of our transportation infrastructure, i.e. public transit which has *not* been prioritized in the US as it has in most developed countries of the world. The single biggest reason for that has been the actions of automotive and related companies.

  4. Ban private transit from our streets? The majority of workers get to work by private vehicles. Those private buses get workers to their jobs which benefits all of us. Without the transportation infrastructure the economy would collapse. How it is paid for is good to debate, however.

  5. In the best possible scenario, which has the remotest of possibilities. Anyone with half a brain can see that Trump is working on behalf of his big-oil, big-coal cronies. Citizens and the environment come in last. Just look at his cabinet picks.

    That’s my last comment on this article. Much wiser use of time is spent calling representatives’ offices.

  6. EPA necessary functions can be transferred to other agencies so we can have the cleanest air and water we can afford. EPA may have outlived its usefulness years ago.

  7. Transplants imposing their values is not a personal attack. It is the truth. Why don’t you live where you work? That could help with the environment.

  8. I have not seen the specifics so it is not possible to comment on what was requested. But there is a point of diminishing returns we may have passed that make no real difference. There is no such thing as a free lunch. It is always risk versus benefit. If you want zero risk I suggest you turn off your computer a walk wherever you want to go.

  9. The cars are cleaner because of regulation, not despite it. Did you miss this above?:

    “Ford is asking Trump for relief from California’s stronger emissions controls, also to sell more SUVs.”

  10. I amazed I lasted this long. I recall when you could smell the smoke from the East Bay oil refineries and factories mixed with the odor from the slaughter houses when the wind reversed course. There were days when you could not see Oakland from SF through the brown haze. The population has since tripled and so has the cars but the air is much cleaner. Trump will not make a the air dirty again.

  11. The actual impact to a road is a function of the fourth power of weight per axle. Following this guideline, a car does 160,000x as much damage as a bike. If you plan on charging even 1 cent for a bike, we’re talking a massive increase for cars. So how about jettisoning this nonsense about licensing bikes? The damage they do is actually mostly the weight of the person riding it, so by the same logic we should be charging pedestrians 1 cent as well.

    Agreed that much heavier vehicles should be charged more than cars, though. We’re nowhere near covering the damage of double-decker buses.

  12. There’s a good pt there. ‘with more and more electric vehicles, and gas-tax revenue dropping with longer-mileage cars, there needs to be a better way to supplement our road repair budgets.

    Maybe a license fee on *all* vehicles, bases on weight. So a 25# bike pays X, a 2500# compact pays 100X, a 5000# SUV pays 200x, a 10k Chariot pays 400X, and a fully loaded ‘Google’ bus – @ 50,000# – would pay 2000X.

    But if the vehicle were never used, where’s the fairness. So we need a metric for usage as well. Maybe something like the Smog-check stations where a mileage count is done semi/annually.

    If a compact paid, say $200/yr, then a bike would pay $2 (maybe added to new bike sales for life-expectancy – so $15 additional), and a Google bus would pay $4000. That plus actually road miles usage as a function of that weight – and we ought to be able to dial in wear-n-tear fairly consistently.

  13. Jason,

    I do think you need to do a bit better research to support your claims. First, Ford bought Chariot, which was already located in SF. Second, the research center opened by Ford in Palo Alto is not limited to autonomous vehicles. Almost all of the major automotive manufacturers have similar centers in Silicon Valley. Third, Ford has been the car company that Trump has singled out more than any other, both in the campaign and afterward. Fourth, Ford just cancelled a new plant in Mexico, and is not building US plants at the moment. So it has no ‘new factories’.

    I am vehemently anti-Trump, but I also know the automotive business pretty well, though I don’t work for a car manufacturer. Several of these vehicle companies have a singular objective – sell more vehicles. Some are exhibiting the foresight to know that the world is changing, and car sharing and new forms of transport are a huge and rapidly growing part of our lives. Some want to be able to be part of the solution to the immediate issues of congestion, emissions and most certainly global warming. In comparison to the other auto manufacturers, Ford is ahead in all three areas in my opinion, and has huge resources dedicated to improving its standing in all three. Certainly it recognizes that it has a long way to go, but they are working on it with seriousness, and I give them credit.

    I am not sure that any of these companies is ‘enthusiastic’ about working with Trump. He is browbeating them to submit to his protectionist view, and has no clue how global the automotive business is. Many are jockying to stay out of his gunsights, and I think we all, as well as Ford and its competitors, need to stand up to the nonsense spewing out of this administration.

    Thanks for adding to an important dialogue. I am going to buy your book and learn more of your views.

  14. And the Republicans’ War on America continues. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida has introduced H.R.861 to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. Give this sociopath a piece of your mind by calling his office at (202) 225-4136.

  15. Yes, Ford and Trump are absolutely an affront. Maybe you don’t have too many years left on your lungs, but they’ve fared better breathing under California’s strict environmental standards. Why not think about somebody besides yourself?

  16. An affront to San Francisco? San Francisco values? You speak for San Francisco? I have lived here 74 years. I love it when transplants tell me what my values should be.

    You can lead a horse to water but . . . No matter what kind of cars Ford produces, someone will need to buy them.

    Personally, at my age, I look forward to driverless cars.

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