The Detroit News reports that former Ford public affairs executive Jason Vines accuses the manufacturer of tapping his phone during the company’s 2001 Ford Explorer/Firestone tire debacle, and that Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Jr. was directly responsible for leaks to the New York Times.
In a new book, entitled “What Did Jesus Drive? Crisis PR in Cars, Computers and Christianity”, Jason Vines — a public relations official not only at Ford, but at DaimlerChrysler, Chrysler LLC, and Nissan Motor Co. — suggests that after he was fired in the same wave of terminations that followed the ouster of ex-CEO Jacques Nasser in October 2001, that a Ford security official informed him that his phone and car had both been bugged “for months.” Michigan law states that regardless of whether the phone was owned by the company or not, wiretapping is a felony.
The book is being published Nov. 1 by Waldorf Publishing.
In the Detroit News piece, “Vines recounted a meeting in the office of the company’s then-general counsel John Rintamaki that he complained about a boss. Rintamaki turned up the radio in his office and began playing some loud classical music, similar to a scene in the movie ‘All the President’s Men’ and whispered to Vines ‘they’re listening.”
The book also alleges that Bill Ford, Jr. was behind several high profile leaks that led to Jacques Nasser’s ouster. In 2001, Nasser decided to recall another 13 million Firestone tires that were found to be partially responsible for more than 270 deaths in Ford Explorers.
Vines alleges that Nasser told Bill Ford, Jr. of his decision, and immediately afterward, the New York Times Detroit bureau chief called Vines about rumors of a new recall.
The book goes on to suggest that Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. was behind leaks to another New York Times reporter during the crisis that eventually led to Nasser’s firing in 2001.
“Vines in turn asked Ford security to check the reporter’s home, cellphone and office phone to see if someone at Ford at called him. The security official told him an hour later: ‘You don’t want to know.’ He then recounted another leak to the reporter — that Nasser’s poor health would prevent him from attending the company’s annual shareholder meeting. The security official then explained who they believed was behind the leaks: ‘His name is on the building,’Vines writes.”
Ford responded to the book and to the Detroit News story via spokeswoman Susan Krusel:
“The accounts detailed in the book about the Firestone tire crises happened more than a decade ago under a very different leadership team at Ford,” Krusel said. “As with any retelling of history, memories and accuracy differ from person to person, and this account is no different.
“During the events, our sole focus was on doing what was right for the safety of our customers. Jason was a key member of our leadership team at the time, and we are grateful for his tireless leadership during the time he served at Ford. We will let the book speak for itself, as we remain focused on creating the next chapter in Ford’s history.”