Ford Ad Seeks to Revive Anti-Bailout Fervor

Ford press conference

A new commercial (after the break) by Ford features Chris, an F-150 owner, who doesn’t talk about his truck. He says he bought it because he “wasn’t going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government. I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: win, lose, or draw.”

This ad, part of the company’s Drive One campaign, proposes that patriotism is never having to buy from a bailed-out company, like GM or Chrysler. The prospect of buying an Asian or German brand never comes up.

The scene is a phony press conference, and everything about the ad reads “cheap shot.” Especially when you realize that Ford, while it didn’t declare bankruptcy, came very close. In fact, in 2008 Senate hearings CEO Alan Mulally supported the bailout and made strong remarks about the solidarity of the auto industry.

The ad plays flagrant politics by reviving old controversies over the bailout. Though chauvinists will cheer it, let’s hope for a big backlash against ads like this, because the last thing the auto industry needs (or any of us needs) is to start inflaming political opinion and reopening old wounds.

Then we’ll have GM and Chrysler ads countering with man-on-the-street interviews talking about Ford’s outsourcing, in particular with the Fiesta, and in particular sending thousands of U.S. jobs around the globe.

None of the Big Three has clean hands, anyway. I still maintain that without the bailout there would have been millions of jobs (and an industry) lost.

Instead of going bankrupt, Ford assumed crushing debt, which has left it weaker as a company. Paying that down is a slow process, though they have made progress. At the end of 2009, Ford debt stood at $33.6 billion. At the end of 2015, the outlook is for “about $10 billion” in debt.

Ford stockIf Ford really wants an ad war, I’d like the competition to run some ads showing how Ford’s immense debt has crippled the company. The stock has consistently declined over the past year; it’s now around $10.56 a share (see graph). Still, the company is predicted to outperform the market this coming year.

Remember back in March when Ford execs were given something over $100 million in stock bonuses and options? Mulally got about $56 million of that.

Do you think the new Ford commercial is a cheap shot or a fair shot? Tell us why.

—jgoods

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4 Comments

  1. Ford needs to propagandize potential customers because at this point:
    1. They have huge legacy costs that their ocmpetitors got rid of in bankruptcy.
    2. Their vehicles are more expensive than the domestic competition and much more expensive than some of the imports, without a commensurate edge in quality of features.
    3. They continue to antagonize potential customers by advertising “employee-only” prices, It’s a deceptive marketing practice shared by their domestic rivals that their import competitors don’t follow.

  2. I agree with Greg. Consumers will decided if this campaign has legs. If they don’t buy, Ford will stop the spot and we’ll never even remember it existed. It’s a non-issue.

  3. Since when did car sales become an honorable profession. If Ford can use a ad campaign to increase sales, good for them. All’s fair in a car sale.

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