From the Water Cooler: Ford Pays for its Prudence

May 30, 2009

I was waiting at the Toyota dealer for my 30,000 checkup, it took forever. While sitting with other people in the same situation (i.e. trapped without our vehicles) we began talking, of course about cars and bailouts and dealerships. Several people said their next car would be a Ford, they wanted to reward them for not taking bailout money. I thought this article was an interesting slant on the situation.

“While General Motors and Chrysler will emerge from the government restructuring wringer with significantly reduced debt, Ford will still likely be obliged to repay its lenders.

This could put Ford at a competitive disadvantage — an unfortunate irony for the one Detroit car company that has gotten the decisions mostly right in the last few years.” article found at Money Central

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.


Quote from Kelby:

My next car will be whatever is best for me and my family. Looking at it from all angles. Price, Quality, Durability, Mileage, Size. In the real world, that’s what it comes down to for me.

Hi Kelby

For a lot of people, the real world is changing, and with it, their criteria for purchasing a vehicle. What’s interesting about Kay’s post, is the fact that a new angle is beginning to emerge among consumers – call it a sense of consequence. People are beginning to realize their purchases ultimately send a message, and starting to sense that something fundamentally unfair has happened in Detroit.

This morning at the coffee shop, a guy came up to me and said, “Hey, you’re Mike Rowe.” (People often tell me this, and then appear confused when I don’t respond with surprise.) I waited for him to then tell me I host Dirty Jobs, but instead he said, “You guys didn’t take the money.” It took me a minute to realize he was talking about Ford. He wanted me to tell the powers-that-be at Ford how grateful he was that they made some really tough decisions two years ago – decisions that allowed them to remain independent and solvent today. He seemed disappointed when I explained I didn’t have a direct line to any bonafide bigshots, but went on anyway to tell me that he had traded in his old Chevy (at a loss) in favor of a new Ford. For him, a “sense of consequence” had become a key buying decision, along with Price, Quality, Durability, Mileage, Size. Bottom line – He didn’t want to reward a bailout. I wasn’t surprised by his position; I hear it all the time. What surprised me was his passion. He was angry.

I won’t be guilted or swayed into buying one manufacturer over the other because of a PR campaign.

Nor should you. PR Campaigns and ad strategies are nothing but a pile of claims, wrapped around the usual smear of features and benefits and predictable music beds. Taxpayer bailouts however, are hardly a PR Campaign. They’re a policy. A fact. A calculated decision to use your money to keep certain companies in business, for the express purpose of keeping them competitive with other companies that didn’t require your money to remain solvent. If Chevy and GM somehow survive this, and emerge from bankruptcy debt-free while Ford is still saddled by the now quaint notion of repaying it’s lenders, that’s a hell of a message to send the free market. And a very important fact for consumers to weigh. Americans love a fair fight. and this ain’t fair.


Not even one that Mike Rowe is pitching.

No one doubts your immunity to my powers of persuasion. However, are you not moved at all by the difference between a company who can pay it’s bills, and one that needs your money to do so?

If I did have direct access to the the Big Cheese at Ford, I would suggest he put that very question to America. It doesn’t matter much who is doing the asking. Hell, hire a computerized voice. The spokesman only matters when the message needs a little help. But this issue is bigger than a spokesman or a campaign. Because I strongly suspect that the guy in the coffee shop is not alone.


Click Here to join the discussion going on in the Water Cooler.

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