What is Ford?
I've been actively considering a new car purchase for about a month now. Back when I was only anticipating this time to come, I considered Ford a strong candidate for a new car. First of all, their cars have simply improved. As far as quality goes, they've come a long way since S&P downgraded its credit to "junk" status in 2006. The "Bold Moves" campaign, while not one of their more memorable, gave us a glimpse into their advertising and PR push they've been doing since then, up to their very wise hiring of former Crayonista Scott Monty in 2008 and their use of Dirty Jobs frontman, Mike Rowe, as their spokesperson.
They made me a believer.
Consequently, I've been looking for an excuse to buy a Ford since they turned down the auto bailout to make their own way, so when their recent campaign to spotlight the testimonies of Ford owners who were critical of those who took the bailout, it really resonated with me.
Though no one at Ford will confirm it, some reports say that the White House put pressure on Ford to remove the ads. That bothers me. It bothers me a lot. But Ford's response, and the information that's come to light since then bothers me, too.
The focus of the ads is a moral one. The people giving their testimony clearly favor Ford on moral grounds.
Ford didn't take the money. The other guys did.
Implied in this treatment is a moral case for making your own way and not asking the taxpayers to foot their bill. That may make some people uncomfortable, but it was exactly what I was thinking. And the ads were popular, so I wasn't the only one.
Now... I did remember that they were right in the mix of the Congressional hearings during the bailout talks about the auto industry being "too big to fail," but when they withdrew, I wanted to believe they had second thoughts because they knew they shouldn't be asking in the first place. The cost for such assistance was too high.
As it turns out, though, they made the decision for business reasons. They supported the bailout in principle, which is to say, morally. They just thought their chances for success were better if they didn't accept the bailout. They supported it for their rivals getting it.
So why would they run ads that celebrate their "principled stand" when it wasn't anything more than the same self-interest that their competitors were using in their case?
I still need to get a car... And I can no longer select Ford on principle. There is no principle to defind. Consequently, I'll buy a Ford only if they have the best car for what I'm willing to spend.