Whether or not the White House pressured or even contacted Ford Motor Company after the company released their recent ad appealing to anti-bailout sentiments we’ll probably never know. We’ll also probably never know if this was all just a symphony of leaks and disclaimers orchestrated by Ford. What we do know, thanks to a Rasmussen opinion poll [Sub. required, some data here], is that Ford had good reason to stoke American consumers’ resentment against it’s domestic competitors because they were bailed out by the government. The poll shows that the bailout is clearly a factor, sometimes an overriding one, in automobile purchase decisions. Not only did nearly one in five recent Ford buyers say that they or family members specifically chose Ford products because they didn’t take a government bailout, about half of all consumers surveyed said that they were more likely to buy Fords than GM or Chrysler products specifically because Ford didn’t get bailed out. [Note: Yes, Ford took Dept. of Energy loans and other government funds, but this survey was looking at people's opinions, not facts.]
To be clear, this was a political opinion poll of likely voters, not market research, and the questions were worded to provoke a response but the results were pretty consistent.
Nineteen percent of those questioned responded “yes” to the question: Have you or anyone in your family bought a car from Ford because it didn’t take a government bailout? Of people age 18 to 29, that figure rises to 33%.
When asked: Has the bailout and government takeover of GM caused you or anyone you know to avoid buying a GM car?, 25% of respondents said yes.
To “Does the fact that GM took bailout money make you more or less likely to buy a GM car?”, 50% said less likely. I’d really be interested in interviewing some of the 4% that said “more likely”. How does the fact that a company had to be bailed out make its products more desirable? Perhaps that’s a sympathy vote.
To the question: “Ford didn’t take bailout funding. Does this make you more or less likely to buy from Ford?”, 51% said more likely and 12% said less likely. Perhaps those 12% don’t think Ford needs their help.
Either way, the survey results quantify the subjective experience of Chris McDaniel, the F-150 owner who was featured expressing anti-bailout sentiments in the commercial at the center of this brouhaha. Politics aside, this Rasmussen poll shows that Ford would have missed a marketing opportunity had it not exploited those sentiments.