While I have been enjoying some time off (more on that later), the dubious American automotive industry bailout continues, and Chrysler is already getting some bad bailout press, after they paid top dollar to run a bunch of tone-deaf “Thank You” ads in major newspapers on behalf of the American taxpayers:
Chrysler is facing a backlash from taxpayers and conservative groups after the ailing auto company took out a series of full-page newspaper ads last week to thank Americans for “investing” in the company through the government’s $17.4 billion auto industry bailout plan.
The ads ran last week in several major daily newspapers, including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Since USA Today and The Wall Street Journal are two of the highest-circulation newspapers in the country, full-page ad rates are steep. A full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal runs between $206,000 and $264,000, and a full-page ad in USA Today runs between $112,000 and $217,000 [emph. added].
Are asinine decisions like this part of that “Northern economic mindset” that Harold Meyerson compared to the American Civil War in his column today? Judging from the comments on Chrysler’s blog, this is a fight Lincoln likely would have avoided. Wisconsin native Brian Dunbar summed up the general sentiment in the comments:
It takes a man with a whole lotta chutzpah to thank a person for investing in a company when they had zero voice in the matter. My elected representatives decided ‘no’. The executive branch decided ‘yes’ through means that might be legal but frankly smell like rotten fish. You may certainly get my money this way, but you will never see a dime of my money voluntarily spent on any of your products.
Auto Observer also chimed in on Chrysler’s poor judgement:
Chrysler’s $200,000-a-pop Hallmark moments are being called out in all quarters as mindless and myopic. Fox News criticized not only the “spend” itself but the symbolic cluelessness of it all. If Chrysler had a brain, it could have done a “viral” Web campaign for practically no cost, and appeared all the more intelligent and resourceful for doing so.
After a public relations beating, Chrysler felt obliged to explain its actions on the company blog today:
We appreciate the strong interest and wide diversity of opinion regarding the government loans for our Company to continue its transformation, as well as our one time advertisement thanking the American people. . .Chrysler feels it is important to tell the American people about our commitment to America. With quality products now and exciting vehicle launches to come in the future, we consider ourselves the most American car company in the United States by virtue of the fact that the far majority of our business (employees, manufacturing, dealers) is conducted domestically.
Chrysler executives, get smart quick, because this bailout is likely the last shot your company is ever going to get. A more suitable “thank you” to the taxpayers who provided your life-sustaining cash flow would be to somehow become a profitable corporation, and pay back all of your government loans. Save the “thank you’s” and other extravagance until after you can foot the bill on your own dime.
Post Script. If you are not too busy this New Year’s eve, make sure you check in to Chrysler’s Blog and let them know exactly how you feel about their expensive gesture of appreciation.