Trump to Boeing: If you want some branding advice …

Give the man this much credit — he certainly knows branding. How much expertise does one need to have to grasp this strategy, though?

One can think of a few products that had worse public-relations problems. The Ford Pinto comes to mind, although Ford didn’t take Trump’s advice in the late 1970s. After getting sued over deaths and injuries resulting from fires started when rear-end accidents punctured badly designed gas tanks, outcomes foreseen but not addressed by Ford engineers, Ford kept the model name for the re-engineered line. My father bought one that year because he got a great discount on, er … a mint-green Ford Pinto station wagon. (That strategy didn’t turn out well for the Pinto line, which ended in 1981, although the cars themselves were fine after their redesign.)

On the other hand, the Boeing 737 Max is already responsible for more than ten times the deaths attributed to the Pinto. Put that on top of a growing realization that Boeing still may not have the problem fully identified, and Trump has an even stronger point:

American Airlines said Sunday that it would extend flight cancellations for Boeing 737 Max aircraft by four months while it waits for Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration to fix and recertify the planes’ flight-control systems, which have been implicated in two deadly plane crashes in recent months. The cancellations will affect about 115 flights per day through Aug. 19.

The move reflects a growing realization among Boeing’s airline customers that a worldwide grounding of Boeing jets, now in its fourth week, is unlikely to wrap up soon. In early April, the company took the extraordinary step of cutting its 737 Max production rate from 52 per month to 42. And Southwest Airlines, the other U.S. airline that has 737 Max 8 jets, also has canceled flights involving the aircraft through Aug. 5. …

The FAA initially said Boeing would complete the software fix “no later than April.” A Boeing executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said late last month that the training component of that update had been “provisionally approved” by regulators. The company had initially planned to submit its full package of software and training changes to the FAA for review by the first week of April, but the submission was delayed.

Originally, Boeing projected that the software patch would already be approved and updated in all its planes by now. Two weeks ago, they announced that it might be delayed four weeks, which caused some to wonder whether the start of the summer travel season might get impacted. Now carriers are pushing out the date to nearly the end of that season. That decision means a lot of lost revenue for American and Southwest, and they wouldn’t throw that kind of sales out the window for anything other than very good reasons.

That isn’t exactly a confidence builder in either Boeing or its 737 Max product. Even after the FAA gives the go-ahead, some travelers will be leery about getting back on board 737 Maxes for quite some time. After all, the FAA approved the 737 Max once before and look how that turned out. If Boeing had any sense at all, they’d rechristen the planes to something less provocative, as Trump suggested. How about the 738 Totally New Airplane?

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