So ... what's missing from Ford's picture of the American family?
We should start by recognizing that Ford places high on current lists of pet-safe vehicles, with the Edge being named "Pet Safe Vehicle of the Year" in 2010, by Bark Buckle UP and AskPatty. Pet Connection reports the Flex and Transit also made the top 10.
But frankly, the criteria for judging the competition is pretty thin.
According to the Pet Connection post: "The safety features that qualify these vehicles are rear climate control, side curtain airbags and d-rings to harness pets." Only the d-rings have much to do with the most serious risks to pets and people in an accident.
This is a BIG DEAL.
"Most people don't think about it, but in only a 35 mph accident with a 60-pound pet it becomes a 2,700-pound projectile. This will injure the pet, passengers, driver or the pet may escape the vehicle and cause a second accident or become agitated and bite the first responder that is on scene doing their job," explained Christina Selter of Bark Buckle UP.
And that's where the BIG OPPORTUNITY for Ford comes in.
The trend that should have been part of your Safety and Security for All Ages discussion was summed up by Bob Vetere, President of the American Pet Products Association in announcing their 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey results:
"[P]et owners have accepted that their pets are like children and they enjoy indulging their pet more than ever." (Emphasis added.)
He added, "Pet owners aren’t just looking to provide a home for their pets, they are investing in their pets’ quality of life. Often times they do this at their own expense, cutting personal expenses, but not those affecting their faithful companions."
The proof of this trend toward treating pets as full members of the family lies in the fact that the pet products industry has continued growing at a healthy pace right through the recent tough economic times:
$45.5 Billion in 2009
$48.3 Billion in 2010 - up 6.2%
$50.8 Billion in 2011 - up 5.1% (estimated)
And a significant chunk of that spending is going to transporting pets in cars. The APPA reports: "Almost a quarter of owners reported they took their dog with them in the car when they traveled for at least two nights." Since there are 46.3 million dog owning households, that means over 11 million car owners care about taking their dogs with them on extended trips in their cars. Including cats adds close to a million more.
Looking at one form of shorter, local trips, approximately 1.4 million dog owners are taking their pet to work an average of 22 times per year.
So it's a BIG MARKET of people who care deeply about their pets.
And it shouldn't be very hard to do a lot better at providing safety features for pets in your vehicles. Given your history in the airline industry, Mr. Mulally, you may know, or probably know some folks you could call to learn, how planes are fitted to secure and safely transport the approved pet crates and carriers.
You could also work with existing suppliers, like Kurgo, with their award-winning lines of harnesses and other products designed for traveling with pets in cars. You showed us how Ford has re-imagined cars and trucks as also being mobile communication devices and partnered with companies like Pandora, Microsoft, and Nuance, to make those features accessible and affordable. A company like Kurgo could, similarly, help you view cars and trucks as also being pet transport devices.
Because they are.