Under White House Pressure, Ford pulls its ad on bailouts

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by JamesL, Sep 29, 2011.

  1. JamesL


    ‘Didn’t take the money’ boast ruffles feathers


    For the only Detroit automaker that "didn't take the money" of the federal auto bailouts, Ford Motor Co. keeps paying a price for its comparative success and self-reliant turnaround.

    There's no help from American taxpayers to help lighten its debt load, giving crosstown rivals comparatively better credit ratings and a financial edge Ford is working diligently to erase all on its own.

    There's no clause barring a strike by hourly workers amid this fall's national contract talks with the United Auto Workers — a by-product of the taxpayer-financed bailout that General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC retain until 2015.

    And there's no assurance the Dearborn automaker can use the commercially advantageous fact that it didn't "take the money" proffered by the Obama Treasury Department and use it in TV ads angling to sell cars and trucks. Not if the campaign takes a whack at its Detroit rivals and suggests that Ford no longer supports the Obama administration bailouts it backed in public statements and sworn congressional testimony.

    As part of a campaign featuring "real people" explaining their decision to buy the Blue Oval, a guy named "Chris" says he "wasn't going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government," according the text of the ad, launched in early September.

    "I was going to buy from a manufacturer that's standing on their own: win, lose, or draw. That's what America is about is taking the chance to succeed and understanding when you fail that you gotta' pick yourself up and go back to work."

    That's what some of America is about, evidently. Because Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy CEO Alan Mulally repeatedly supported in the dark days of late 2008, in early '09 and again when the ad flap arose. And more.

    With President Barack Obama tuning his re-election campaign amid dismal economic conditions and simmering antipathy toward his stimulus spending and associated bailouts, the Ford ad carried the makings of a political liability when Team Obama can least afford yet another one. Can't have that.

    The ad, pulled in response to White House questions (and, presumably, carping from rival GM), threatened to rekindle the negative (if accurate) association just when the president wants credit for their positive results (GM and Chrysler are moving forward, making money and selling vehicles) and to distance himself from any public downside of his decision.

    In other words, where presidential politics and automotive marketing collide — clean, green, politically correct vehicles not included — the president wins and the automaker loses because the benefit of the battle isn't worth the cost of waging it.

    "This thing is highly charged," says an industry source familiar with the situation. Ford "never meant it to be an attack on the policy. There was not any pressure to take down the ad."

    Maybe not technically. But the nexus of politics and the auto business in today's Washington is bigger, broader and more complex than it arguably has been in who knows how long.

    Add a re-election campaign for the president credited (or condemned) with executing the bailout, and it should be no surprise that a White House that insists it doesn't want to "run" the business nonetheless reserves the right to question it, implications be damned.

    Whatever the politics, the ad kerfuffle exposes two opposed realities existing simultaneously for Ford:

    First, a sizable cadre of current and would-be customers oppose the notion of taxpayer bailouts for automakers, whatever the economic costs to the industrial Midwest and the nation of letting them collapse. Meaning there's an advantage Ford can press to remind folks that it didn't receive direct payouts from Treasury.

    Second is that Ford supported the bailouts before Congress, in public statements and still does today, despite the recurring snarkiness you hear around its offices in Dearborn that it "didn't take the money."

    No, it didn't. But Ford did seek a line of credit from the feds, borrowed billions under a government program to "retool" its plants and effectively failed first. That's why it recruited a superstar CEO from Boeing Co. and gave him some $23 billion in borrowed money to save the Blue Oval from bankruptcy.

    Or it would have taken the money, too.

  2. pspr


    Obama needs to quit meddling in business. Especially he needs to stop with his secretive intimidation tactics.

    We are tuning into a state controlled by the government Gestapo and it needs to stop.
  3. Lucrum


    Ford should have told Obama to go fuck himself.
  4. pspr