Ford Motor Company recently put together an ad campaign in which actual Ford buyers are plopped down in front of a press conference, and invited to talk honestly about why they made that choice. The responses were supposed to be raw and unscripted.
One of the ads featured a customer named Chris, who said this:
I 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. 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. Ford is that company for me.
Daniel Howes of The Detroit News claims Ford was pressured into pulling this ad by the Obama Administration. He minces no words in reporting this exciting adventure on the frontiers of unacceptable speech:
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.
What kind of pressure could Obama apply, aside from directing some flunkies to call Ford executives and whine them into submission? Gosh, that’s a real puzzler. Can’t imagine what sort of leverage they would have.
In totally unrelated news, did you know Ford was the only one of the Big Three automakers that can be the target of a union strike, and the United Auto Workers are contemplating just such a strike? From a New York Times article published yesterday:
After taking Sunday off, union negotiators began “high-level financial discussions” with Ford on Monday, according to a memo they posted online. A subsequent memo said the parties had agreed to meet for “very long negotiating sessions” this week and that bargaining would continue around the clock when a deal was near.
Ford is the only one of the three Detroit carmakers whose workers are allowed to strike in this year’s talks. Binding arbitration is the only option at G.M. and Chrysler in the event of an impasse, under the terms of their government-sponsored bankruptcies in 2009.
When conservative columnist Michelle Malkin reported on this story, a reader relayed Ford’s response via Facebook, claiming “we were not coerced into pulling the ad down,” but instead “took the ad out of rotation after 4 weeks, which is consistent with the typical lifespan for the campaign.”
It should be noted that Ford has not been a vigorous opponent of the auto bailouts per se. They just like to boast about not taking government bailout money themselves. Here is Ford CEO Alan Mulally celebrating the role played by the GM bailout in saving the economy, during an interview with Fortune magazine:
Which has nothing to do with the unscripted opinion of a guy named Chris, who doesn’t want to buy a car built with government bailout money. Or Ford’s right to broadcast those opinions. The one thing nobody has a right to do is refuse to bail out designated corporate “winners.” That’s compulsory.