Today, as the Senate Banking Committee convenes to discuss the auto bailout, one of the issues they are likely discussing is whether all the aid bestowed on bankrupt GM and Chrysler might be putting them at a competitive advantage over Ford, which is as of right now the only major U.S. carmaker that hasn't filed for bankruptcy.
Ford is in an unfortunate situation, one that is similar to that of many Americans who were prudent about their own finances and must now fund the efforts of the government to bail out everybody who wasn't.
Think of the auto industry as a neighborhood: The Ford, Chrysler, and GM families each owned a house of similar value, with similar levels of debt on them. But they behaved completely differently. Chrysler bought lavish gifts for its fancy friends in Washington; GM kept renovating its house over and over again, paying $70 an hour to roofers and dry-wallers and tile-men who end up coming over and not doing anything; while Ford worked hard and saved it nickels for a rainy day. Then came the hurricane. Chrysler and GM families defaulted on their mortgages, but were able to rent an identical house down the street for half of what they were paying before. A nicer house. Ford, meanwhile, got stuck in the same old house with the same old payments.
It's not really fair.
Hopefully, the government will find a way to help them. Until then, we can't help but think that Ford should be doing everything in their power to remind us of just how strong and independent they are.
According to the Journal, Ford has been running a public-relations campaign promoting their lack of reliance on the government. But so far, it sounds pretty weak:
"The neatest thing about Ford is that we have done this on our own and that we are so proud and the consumers are so proud that Ford is creating their future by themselves and not accessing this precious taxpayer money," Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally said on NBC's Today program Monday when asked about how he expected the buying public to treat GM and Chrysler after filing for bankruptcy protection.
They're the neatest? Really? This makes us embarrassed to be Ford Focus drivers. Couldn't the company embrace their position with a little more gusto? They've got the high ground, and they should use it! Take a cue from General Motors, perhaps, and replace those creepy ads that remind us of Blade Runner with something a little more au courant. Maybe get Zach Galifianakis! Everyone loves him. And switch up the slogan. We mean: "Drive the Ford Difference"? It's not "We're the Neatest," but still, please. How about, "Invest in Yourself. Invest in America. Buy Ford." That has a nice ring to it.
Or they could just go with "Ford: We're Less Fucked For Now." That would work, too.