Ford Motor Co. said on Tuesday that its luxury Jaguar and Land Rover brands will no longer advertise in gay publications, but denied that the nation's second largest automaker made the decision under pressure from conservative Christian groups.
"The decisions with regard to advertising was a business decision," Ford spokesman Mike Moran said. He said Ford's Volvo brand would continue advertising in gay publications. Ford hasn't advertised its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands in those publications, Moran added.
Moran said Jaguar and Land Rover, which are part of Ford's money-losing Premier Automotive Group, have decided to cut back on their advertising across the board because of difficult market conditions. The Premier Automotive Group reported a pretax loss of $108 million in the third quarter.
"They feel pressure on their marketing budgets, so they decided to streamline marketing across the board," Moran said. "They're not supporting as many publications and events as before in 2006."
Moran refused to say how much Ford has spent advertising in gay publications such as The Advocate, a biweekly magazine. Mercedes-Benz was advertising on the Advocate's Web site on Tuesday.
Ford's move came nearly a week after the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association canceled a boycott of Ford vehicles that began in May, when the group criticized Ford for being too gay-friendly.
"We are ending the boycott of Ford," association Chairman Donald Wildmon said in a statement Wednesday on the group's Web site. "While we still have a few differences with Ford, we feel that our concerns are being addressed in good faith and will continue to be addressed in the future."
The American Family Association first announced the boycott against Ford and related brands on May 31. The group said Ford gave thousands of dollars to gay rights groups, offered benefits to same-sex couples and actively recruited gay employees.
After a spring meeting with a group of Ford dealers, the association said in June that it was suspending its boycott until at least the beginning of December.
The Human Rights Campaign, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and other gay rights groups expressed concern about reports there was a secret deal between Ford and the American Family Association to end Ford's advertising in gay media.
"If there is an agreement with AFA, we expect Ford to disavow it. We expect Ford to publicly reaffirm its historic support for our community. And, we expect Ford to meet with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) representatives this week to resolve these concerns," the groups said in the statement, which was posted Monday on the Human Rights Campaign Web site.
Moran said the decision was not linked to the boycott.
"We have no confidential agreement with the AFA," he said.
Moran said Ford made it clear at meetings with the American Family Association that the company would continue its policies recognizing the rights of its gay employees.
Ford is proud of its nondiscrimination policies, Moran said, adding: "Those policies will not change."
In May, the association ended a nine-year boycott of The Walt Disney Co. over Disney's decision to extend benefits to same-sex couples and promote gay-related events at its theme parks. The boycott appeared to have little effect, since Disney reported higher earnings and increased theme park attendance during that time.