Over the weekend, Ford CEO Alan Mulally told attendees at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans that the company is in "relatively good shape" these days--especially when compared to rivals GM and Chrysler. Accordingly, Mulally insisted that Ford will not be asking for federal dollars from the industry-wide bailout package.
It's hard not to picture Mulally crossing his fingers and forcing a "what, me worry?" grin when he fires off lines like that. The primary reason he's able to make such statements is because the company took out massive loans a couple of years back, borrowing against even its coveted, highly visible blue oval trademark. Presumably that would leave Ford slightly more flush with cash than its counterparts, but if U.S. auto sales figures don't jump back up to 12+ million per year in the near future, Ford is going to have a tough time just covering the financing on those loans. (Just in case, Ford did ask for a $9 billion line of credit while GM and Chrysler were getting their share of bailout pie, but so far they haven't been approved for it.)
Perhaps I'm being cynical, but it feels like Mulally is playing somewhat fast and loose with shareholders and dealers by making such brand-buffing statements. Yes, both groups are especially jumpy right now--especially the dealers, given GM's talk of reductions--but instilling folks with a false sense of security isn't a great business practice. In fact, it's what got us into this mess in the first place.
If you're curious, you can watch Mulally's keynote address to the NADA convention below. Given the hellacious situation that the industry is facing and his potentially hostile audience, I think Mulally delivers with flying colors, but feel free to disagree in the comments section: