Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quality Should Be Job One, Not Bowing to Presidential Pressure

Let's start with noting that this ad almost made me want to go out and buy a Ford...

Seriously, that ad deserves all the airplay it can get. And for the record, I'm not buying any GM or Chrysler product anytime soon (not that it was likely to happen anyway). But then, the Detroit News noted that Ford pulled the ad, possibly in response to Obama Administration pressure...

As part of a campaign featuring "real people" explaining their decision to buy the Blue Oval, a guy named "Chris" says he "wasn't going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government," according the text of the ad, launched in early September.

"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."

That's what some of America is about, evidently. Because Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy CEO Alan Mulally repeatedly supported in the dark days of late 2008, in early '09 and again when the ad flap arose. And more.

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.
So, it appears that despite not wanting to run the auto companies, the President does appear sensitive to criticisms of his policies by those same companies. Mickey Kaus says Ford can't win here...

Poor Ford. They don’t go broke like their rivals. Then Obama White House props up and promotes those rivals. They try to point out their relative independence in an ad,** which then risks turning the Obama White House into an actual enemy. But when they pull the ad it only reinforces the point that they have to suck up to the Obama White House. Corporatism’s a bitch.
What's funny is that Ford is getting grief because they supported the bailouts of thier rivals (which was good business for Ford, as it preserved the businesses of their mutual parts suppliers) and also took a loan from the feds that propped the company up so they didn't later need a bailout. The latter is of course markedly different from participating in a bailout scheme that enriched the President's union cronies at the expense of the company's creditors, but we won't spend any time on that.

But any hypocrisy on Ford's part is irrelevant to a simpler issue -- the White House should not be involved in putting any pressure on a private company, even one receiving taxpayer assistance, to toe a mythical line supporting White House policies. Everyone involved here is denying such a thing took place, but Ford's decision to pull the ad before re-posting it has not been adequately explained, and we all know this White House has a thin skin when it comes to criticism.

Bottom line? I'm still not buying a GM product or anything made by Chrysler. Ford's now on probation.

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