Ford points finger at suppliers for leaked product images

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DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. on Monday, Jan. 18, asked suppliers to stop sharing photos of upcoming vehicles with the media, according to a memo shared with Automotive News.

Images of the Bronco SUV, Bronco Sport crossover and upcoming Maverick compact pickup have recently leaked ahead of their formal introduction. Before a full image of Ford’s compact pickup was released, images and computer renderings of the vehicle’s alleged tailgate, stamped with the name Maverick, leaked.

Ford has also recently reminded employees of the company’s confidentiality requirements and guidelines.

Many of the images were first published by forums and websites dedicated to specific models.

While not naming specific models, Ford said Monday that “a number of these breaches” have come from supplier partners.

“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,” the automaker said in the memo. “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.”

The automaker reminded suppliers that competitive advantages could be “severely diminished or eliminated altogether through malicious or careless disclosure of confidential information.”

Ford prohibits photographs or video of any portion of prototypes prior to official public introductions, with or without camouflage, or even with a vehicle cover.

While subcontractors must follow the same guidelines, Ford singled out Tier 1 suppliers and said 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,” Jonathan Jennings, Ford’s vice president for global commodity purchasing and supplier technical assistance, warned in the memo. “Suppliers could face business repercussions and even recovery actions for damages tied to leaks caused or enabled by suppliers.”

A Ford spokesman, citing significant interest in new Ford and Lincoln models and technologies, said the company is “reinforcing to suppliers and partners, as we have to our own employees, the importance of following strict policies and protocols to protect confidential information.”
 
All automakers typically contend with leaks and spy photos as new model launches draw near. In some cases, such as with the Mustang Mach-E in late 2019, the leaks are accidentally self-inflicted.

But in recent cases, photos of upcoming Ford models appear to have been shot from within plants or other manufacturing facilities.


Automotive News is a sister publication of Crain’s Cleveland Business.



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