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How Ford got right with Trump

Rick Newman
Senior Columnist

Dialogue trumps tweets.

That’s the lesson Ford Motor Co. (F) seems to have learned as it negotiated with Donald Trump and turned a PR problem into a presidential endorsement. “I have a good relationship with him,” Ford executive chairman Bill Ford tells Yahoo Finance in the video above. “I had dialogue with him all throughout his candidacy. The most important thing is, the door is open and he understands our business now better than perhaps he did when he was first a candidate.”

Trump repeatedly criticized Ford during last year’s presidential campaign, for its plan to move some small-car production from Michigan to Mexico. Ford answered that in early January by canceling plans to build a new factory in Mexico and announcing new investments in Michigan. Trump gave the move a thumbs-up on Twitter just as Ford was announcing some new products at this year’s Detroit auto show:

Like other business leaders, Bill Ford says Trump’s plan to slash the US corporate tax rate could be a decisive factor in future decisions on where to invest. Another big factor, he says, is the value of the US dollar relative to other currencies. Presidents can’t really control exchange rates (and shouldn’t try to), but the dollar has been strengthening lately, which can harm US production because it makes American exports more expensive in other countries.

At the auto show, Ford also announced it will bring back the Bronco SUV, which was once beloved for its off-road moxie. But Ford retired the Bronco a few years after O.J. Simpson’s notorious ride in a white model, watched live by millions of people worldwide as an army of police cars followed. The new one will debut in 2020.

Ford is also emphasizing its role in new “mobility” developments such as ride-sharing, on-demand shuttles and technology that might help relieve urban congestion. Bill Ford says in the video that he foresees a day when his company might sell more vehicles that are shared than are owned by individuals. When will the new era of transportation arrive? “It’s happening right now,” he says.

Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.