Already known for its industry leadership in fuel efficiency, safety and quality, the Ford Motor Company also is setting the pace when it comes to supporting diversity: The Blue Oval recently became the first automaker ever honored by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBENC) in its annual listing of America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises. Now in its 13th year, the recognition is “the only national award honoring corporations for world-class programs that level the playing field for women’s business enterprises.”
Ford increased its spending with women-owned suppliers by 22 percent last year, representing a total of $1.06 billion, and continued to develop new and innovative ways to ensure female entrepreneurs earned their fair share of business. And that’s just part of the story, as Ford has more than doubled its support for women-owned suppliers over the past three years. The automaker makes it clear, however, that this isn’t just a case of political correctness gone awry. Companies owned by women have helped a number of current Ford products find significant success in the marketplace.
For example, the heated and powered rear sliding window in the Ford F-150 pickup is sourced from Dura Automotive Systems—owned by Lynn Tilton’s investment company—which also provides a number of other control systems, assemblies and more to the Blue Oval; and the fascias and headliners in the redesigned Ford Explorer comes from Dakkota Integrated Systems, owned by Andra Rush. Both of these Ford trucks, of course, have seen serious sales volumes, with the updated Explorer more than doubling sales between 2010 and 2011, with the F-150 continuing its 35-year run as the best-selling pickup in America.
Women-owned suppliers are contributing to upcoming new vehicles, too, like the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, both of which will rely on transmission parts from Sharon Cannarsa’s Systrand Manufacturing. (For those keeping track of such things, it’s also worth pointing out that Ford has moved the entire manufacturing process for its hybrid transmissions—and batteries—to this country for its next generation of electrified vehicles to be sold in the U.S., starting with the Fusion and C-MAX.)
“Building a financially healthy, diverse supply base is a central part of the Ford purchasing strategy,” said Tony Brown, group vice president, Ford Global Purchasing. “We are proud to receive this recognition, and we hope it brings renewed attention to this important segment of our supply base.”