Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced this morning that Ford, Nissan, and Tesla will collectively receive $8 billion in loans from the government to help them develop more fuel-efficient vehicles.
OK, more auto companies are receiving government money, what else is new? Wait—Ford is receiving money? Is this the same Ford that has been so vocal about not needing and not wanting the bailout money that has been given to most, if not all, of its U.S. competitors? The same Ford that said in December “it has enough borrowed money to make it through 2009 without government help.”
Yes, same Ford. Different definition of government money.
Both in tweets to concerned customers and again in a phone interview with me, Ford’s head of social media Scott Monty reiterated that this $5.9 billion in Energy Department loans is not a bailout. Yes, it’s government money, but it’s “part of an Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program that was instituted before the auto industry started going south.” Ford signed up for the program back in September—around the time that Congress first approved loans for the U.S. auto industry’s big players—and only companies that are financially viable are eligible, he says. “Manufacturers all the time receive money from the government at one time or another; it’s not to ensure the financial stability of Ford Motor Company.”
Ford has said many times over the past 6+ months that it doesn’t need and it doesn’t want government money. Now, they’re taking government money, albeit for the purpose of developing technology not helping them stay afloat. Will the public pick up on the subtle difference, or, is a government loan a government loan?