• Sep 19th 2011 at 6:10PM
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Ford customer "Chris" recently took to YouTube to confi... Ford customer "Chris" recently took to YouTube to confirm that a recent ad was not a fake (YouTube).
Ford Motor Co. using the bailout to hawk its cars.

In a new TV ad, the automaker shows a real Ford customer facing a fake group of reporters.
When this real customer, Chris, is asked if buying American factored into his decision to buy an F-150, he gives his honest answer to the gaggle of actors playing reporters: "I wasn't going to buy another car from a company that was bailed out by the government," he said. "I was going to buy from a manufacturer that was standing on their own. Win, lose or draw."

According to a film that Ford's customer "Chris" posted on YouTube, his pronouncement in the ad was not scripted. But Ford and its ad agency, Team Detroit, filmed him for some two-and-a-half hours to get the 30-second ad. He says in his post that most of the filming time was about how much he likes his truck and why, not about his position about the bailout.

Ford clearly was a on a mission to use this message in the ad, although they deny it:

"This ad was not timed for political purposes," said Ford spokeswoman Karen Hampton. "This ad features unscripted comments from a real Ford owner, one of many in a series of similar ads."

Team Detroit creative chief Toby Barlow says he doesn't see the ad as being overtly political.

"This ad is one of dozens we have made in the same style, each highlighting a different aspect of the vehicle or the ownership experience," says Barlow. "This is the first one we have done that touches on the fact that some buyers have chosen a Ford at least in part because of how the company got through the last couple of very difficult years with government bailout or ownership."

Bailout free

Ford executives have talked many times about the fact that it got through the economic calamity of 2008 and 2009 without government bailout or government assisted bankruptcy. But this is the first time the company had advertised it so directly, and used its accomplishment to draw such a sharp contrast between the Dearborn, Mich., automakers and General Motors and Chrysler.

The ad also comes smack in the middle of the Republican debates in which candidates for the Republican nomination for president are actively discussing the proper role of government involvement in business. Republicans have by and large been against the government-assisted bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler in 2009, and the loans that preceded those restructuring. It is worth mentioning, though, that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who was born in Michigan, has been both against the bailout some times, and seemingly in favor of it other times. Romney's father, George Romney, was Governor of Michigan and was at one time CEO of American Motors Corp.

Ford does not usually enter such an obvious political fray in its marketing. A Ford spokesman did not return phone calls at press time.

Because Ford is making its bailout-free status a point of difference between itself, GM and Chrysler, it is worth revisiting the events of late 2008 and early 2009, and why Ford was able to squeak through the economic crisis without direct government help.

In the Fall of 2006, Ford embarked on a massive debt restructuring, which had the company load up its cash position by an extra $23 billion. The company mortgaged practically everything, including, and infamously, the global value of its Ford blue-oval logo. That cash haul, an advantage over GM and Chrysler when auto sales fell off a cliff, was what insulated Ford from needing bailout loans or a taxpayer assisted bankruptcy.

Ford was bailout cheerleader

But let's not forget that Ford was an unqualified booster of the government's support of GM and Chrysler, as well as the auto parts companies. Ford CEO Alan Mulally told Congress, as well as the media, that GM's and Chrysler's survival was key to keeping the supply chain that Ford relied upon in tact and functioning. Had GM and Chrysler gone down, along with several parts companies, Ford would likely have been next on the dole because its supply chain would have been so severely impacted. It would not have been able to build the cars necessary to take advantage of GM's and Chrysler's woes.

While Ford and CEO Mulally deserve all the credit in the world for saving itself from the need of a bailout, it seems a tad smarmy to use a customer with obvious conservative social and political leanings to criticize GM and Chrysler, and the Obama Administration indirectly, for a policy that Ford and its CEO supported with extraordinary public support.

It seems extra smarmy for a company to join the rainstorm of misinformation and ill-informed debate going on in the U.S., driven by an election cycle, about the economy, tax reform, and the role of government when the financial and housing markets were and to some degree still are, broken.

Paging Joe the Plumber?

In his YouTube video, customer Chris goes on to express his positions without Team Detroit editing him. It is really an expanded version of what the Ford captured in the ad. He even mentions now-bankrupt Solyndra, the solar panel company that received over $535 million in government loans, in his polemic against government "picking winners and losers" by bailing out companies and industries.

Besides the fact that Ford execs took an active role in helping to convince the White House to bailout GM and Chrysler, it might interest Ford's customer Chris to know that Ford takes government loans and loan guarantees all the time. For example, Ford took a $250 million loan guarantee last year from the The Export-Import Bank of the United States, a government agency, that will help finance $3.1 billion in export sales for more than 200,000 Ford vehicles. That announcement was celebrated at Ford's Chicago plant with President Obama present.

Ford did not need that loan guarantee, but it avails itself of such loan guarantees all the time from the U.S. government, as well as foreign governments. Why? Because they are there. It's also safe to say that Ford's lobbyists are active in trying to get such loan guarantee programs created in the first place.

The British government not long ago signed off on a £360m loan guarantee central to Ford's £450m loan from the European Investment Bank to develop next-generation environmentally friendly cars.

The Department of Energy made a $5.9 loan to Ford in 2009 to help it transform factories to produce more fuel efficient vehicles. These loans are at lower rates than Ford would ever get from banks or the credit markets.

There is no question that Ford did well to stay clear of government bailout, and did not specifically take government loans needed to keep its doors open. The fact that Ford had adequate cash to withstand the economic hurricane of 2008 and 2009 is a testament to terrific management led by Alan Mulally.

But dancing on the still one-third government ownership of GM after cheerleading for the government's role in the salvation of the U.S. auto industry in the first place lacks the civilized approach to competition that most have come to expect from Ford.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      I saw this ad several times and I found it very disturbing. How could anyone review what happen and see how it may have saved 100,000's of jobs be willing to incinuate it was bad for this coutry I just narrowed my Car search to 2 companies niether named Ford
      Linda Sheridan
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ford DID NOT take federal money. GM DID - we bought good-faith stock in GM and lost all of our investment. THEN GM reorganizes under a new legal name and are being applauded on their "success" at OUR expense. Just horrendous that companies do not have to be loyal to the people who invested in them when they were down.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Linda Sheridan
        How about Buying and having all your Pension $ in GE? Did you see their Stock? Many Committed Suicide, others had Heart Attacks! and how about all those Bank of America 40,000 employees that have been Fired! After all the Bail out $ it got! And these banks are Hoarding it and not lending it out even uder Old Lending Principals.. even a guy with a 650 Rating is hard to get a Loan.. Why should they loan it out? They pay only 2-3% for it and can make 6-9% investing it! Gave the $ to the Fox incharge of the Hen House. Bring the Glass-Stegull act back! And Break up these Mega Banks and Credit Card Companies beofre its too late!
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Linda Sheridan
        No they took tax payers money from the bank that tax payers bailed out. Makes them better?
      • 3 Years Ago
      I will never by a Ford again thanks to this article and the Ford ad,
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ford Motor Company has earned it's rightful place it finds itself in today. Neither GM or Chrysler had the forthought (or liquidable assets) to do the same. But it is none of this that actually matters....Anyone "inside" the car business knows Obama bailed out Chrysler and GM to save the UAW. It was purely a political manuever that, along with cash for clunkers, shows the government has no business meddling in a free market capitalist society. But that is what the Marxist is all about.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Way to go Ford. Amen to a Company that doesnt need handouts. To many handouts going on. This country is leaning on the govt to much, whether its companies or people on welfare, we have a responsibility and the opportunity as an American to provide for ourselves. I dont want to hear excuses or any scenarios, If I can make it on my own so can other people. 2012 it is sure time for a change because Americans are running out of Change.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am a proud Ford Sales Professional, and I have met a number of customers who have decided to buy Ford because they didn't take the bailout money. I was born into the Ford family as my father has worked for Ford for over 25yrs, and I am proud to be a part of a company that puts out a superior product and does not faulter in it's integrity. Ford's exec's are top notch and I look forward to Fords future success.
        Your Momma
        • 3 Years Ago
        Ford took 10 Billion bucks to save their rat filled ship. Ford quality sucks balls. Ask any Triton owner who shot a spark plug out of the head, How many Fords started fire cause of faulty cruise control deactivation switches? How many Fords rolled over cause of top heavy SUVs wearing car tires? 3.8L Engines with crappy headgaskets? I can go on and on and on. Yeaaaaa Pal, Superior product indeed, Bull Product. Fords new logo should be the word FAIL in the oval.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Let's hear it for Ford!!!! They were smart enough to tighten their belts and do what was necessary to stay afloat -- while at the same time, they were in favor of their competitors' being bailed out by me, the taxpayer. I drive a Ford; best car I ever owned besides another Ford I once owned. It's time the entire country including all those on welfare, medicaid, food stamps, unemployment learned how to tighten their belts -- and that includes our infamous president -- who happens to be a big offender of tightening his belt.
      • 3 Years Ago
      we have 2 Ford F 150s-10 & 12 yr old) & thats all we will drive-im proud of Ford-anyone doesnt t like that oh well-it is America-right now we can stll agree or disagree-we have that choice-obama stays in office we will lose that right & privelege as Americans-democrats are all for giving up our country & being politically correct & say we have to like everyone & everything-sorry but i see the writing on the wall-now the liberals are going after Ford- to those that keep on buying n driving ur china jap crap-you are not supporting our country you are supporting them-YOU are part of the problem in this country-signed a loyal Ford driver & an American
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am new to the internet and a friend of mine told me about this car insurance website: ( http://tinyurl.com/InsuranceTip ) It was so easy to find everything I was looking for, when getting free quotes and comparing prices. I saved over 380.00 dollars on my families car insurance costs. My neighbor is an insurance agent and he was amazed at the deal I found.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Seriously? Go away....
      • 3 Years Ago
      I bought a Ford for this reason also and I DO LOVE IT!! Don't care if they were a cheerleader for the other car makers it again was just good business sense to keep them out of the bailout. Everything they did worked no mattter what it was and KUDOS to them. Maybe they should go one step further and teach our government how it is done. I thought I would never buy a Ford but the fact that they did not take the bailout and thought creative made me go and test drive one. Not only did I fall in love with it but the salesmen and the rest of the team were great!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I had already mad the decision to only buy FORD'S in my future.
      David Finn
      • 3 Years Ago
      Bravo Ford, GM Goverment Motors is still making a grappy car, look at the Malibu. The hydrid Malibu barely gets mileage above that of a regularly fueled car, and the Fusion gets almost 41 miles per gallon which is 7 more miles per gallon than the standard Vehicle. Worth the added expense. Goverment Motors needs to go back to the drawing board.
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