From Fall 2008 through Summer 2009—the most intense months of the “Bailruptcy Era”—I ventured on occasion to question Ford’s near total silence in the face of an unprecedented intervention to rescue its chief rivals from a hard-earned fate. In pondering whether Ford would defend its interests, I wrote:
There is probably no company in America that stands to lose more from taxpayer subsidization of GM and Chrysler…
If GM and Chrysler were no longer producing, Ford would be able to pick up market share and productive assets from the others, and ultimately improve its own long term prospects. By keeping GM and Chrysler afloat with subsidies, the government is implicitly taxing Ford. Ford is facing unfair, government-subsidized competition, of the sort alleged against foreign producers all the time. But in this case, the subsidies are real, direct, quantifiable, and large.
Well, Ford did remain silent about the rescue operation (for reasons I never found particularly compelling).
Fast forward to Ford’s Summer 2011 television advertising campaign, which includes commercials featuring Ford customers giving press conferences to answer questions about why they chose Ford. One of those commercials (this one, HT Gene Healy) has the customer explaining that he’d never buy a car from a company that was bailed out by our goverment, which, as it turns out, is a compelling determinant of demand these days.
In branding itself as the unbailed-out Detroit producer, Ford has politely ended its silence on the matter of the GM and Chrysler bail-ruptcies, in a very smart, respectable manner. And by using actors instead of executives to speak ill of the auto intervention, Ford keeps its own bailout raincheck in a safe place, should the inclination to redeem it ever become irresistable.
Somebody at Ford deserves a raise.