Planet Gore

Built Ford Kinda-Tough

From firing its CEO to dictating the location of its headquarters, bailed-out Government Motors has predictably been at the mercy of Obama. But who knew the White House also ran Ford?

The Blue Oval has gained new life as “America’s car company” for being the only Detroit automaker not to take the federal bailout — and it has exploited the opportunity in sales and with a brash new ad in which a customer boasts that “I wasn’t gonna buy another car that was bailed out by the government. I was gonna buy from a manufacturer standing on their own. That’s the American way.”

Trouble is, Ford is hardly the frontier cowboy it claims. Today, it shelved its much-ballyhooed ad under White House pressure.

“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,” reports Detroit News columnist Dan Howes.

That’s right. Ford may not have dirtied its hands — but it lobbied for its alleged cross-town harlots to take the money. Why? Because Ford shares the auto-supply chain with its rivals and would have been dragged under with them had the feds not intervened.

Okay, but can’t Ford brag about having the courage to forgo federal welfare even if it meant putting itself at a disadvantage to its unprincipled rivals?

Well, no. Because Ford has since fed greedily at the federal trough of green subsidies, borrowing millions under the DOE’s Section 136 retooling program to build its Ford Explorer SUV and Focus compact. Indeed, Ford CEO Mulally himself has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with President Obama praising these taxpayer “investments.”

An ad campaign that seemed a no-brainer to the ad department surely got sticky when Ford’s front office got pressure from Washington’s front office. “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,” sighs Howes. “Can’t have that.”

And CEOs apparently can’t afford the indignity of not being invited to Rose Garden photo-ops. Or to appear on Letterman.

The Ford ad fiasco is a painful reminder that romantic tales of rugged individualism are hard to come by in Obama’s America where corporations from Big Light Bulb to Big Auto all feed from the Big Government trough.

Henry Payne — Henry Payne is the auto critic for the Detroit News.

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