Ford Can't Seem to Take a Joke, but It's Not the End of the World

Ford CEOThere's no question about it, Detroit is back.

How can we tell? No, it's not the inspiring Chrysler ad featuring Clint Eastwood that ran at halftime during the Super Bowl. And it's not even the profits that have returned to the accounting ledgers at all three American automakers.

Here's how we can tell that Detroit is truly on the mend: General Motors (GM) and Ford (F) are sniping at each other again.

Twinkies, a Rain of Frogs, and a Missing Ford Pickup

The sniping between the two giants started almost 100 years ago. The latest renewal of the ribbing, however, was teed up with a cheeky ad. One of GM's Super Bowl commercials was conceived as a "good-humored" (their words) riff on the idea that ancient Mayans had predicted that the world would end in 2012.

The ad starts with a trashed urban landscape, and piles of rubble from which several Chevy Silverado pickups emerge. One by one, the trucks drive past ruined buildings, a giant robot, and a crashed flying saucer, to a clearing where the drivers get out. One asks, "Where's Dave?"

"Dave drove a Ford," one of the other drivers says, and all shake their heads sadly as Twinkies are passed around and frogs begin to rain from the sky.

It's a silly, fun ad in the great American tradition of silly Super Bowl ads, one of several new spots prepared by GM for last Sunday's festivities. But Ford didn't take kindly to the suggestion that its vaunted F-150 pickups weren't Apocalypse-proof.




That's Not Funny

"Ford demands that Chevrolet immediately cease and desist from making any unsubstantiated and disparaging claims regarding Ford's pickup trucks," said a letter from one of Ford's lawyers to GM last week, before the Super Bowl.

"If Chevrolet does not [remove the ads from the Internet] prior to the start of the Super Bowl, then Ford will take all appropriate steps to enforce and protect its reputation," Ford's lawyer wrote, according to The Detroit News.

Ford's lawyers also wrote to NBC, asking them not to run the ad -- a demand that NBC, like GM, apparently ignored.
GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick seemed delighted by the controversy. He said that the automaker stood by its key claim -- that its trucks were the most dependable and longest-lasting. "We can wait until the world ends, and if we need to, we will apologize," he told The Detroit News. "In the meantime, people who are really worried about the Mayan calendar coming true should buy a Silverado right away."

It sounds like pouting and arch fun. But there's actually a serious -- read: big money -- issue at stake.

Seriously Now, Who Makes the Best Pickup?

Ford's F-series pickup isn't just the company's best-selling product line, it's the best-selling vehicle in America, period. It's a very profitable product, too, meaning that its success is a huge driver of Ford's overall success -- including the hefty profits the automaker posted for 2011.

Seen in that light, it's clear that Ford objects to much more than being the butt of a joke. What really concerns Ford is GM's claim, made in the ad and repeated by Ewanick, that the Silverado is "the most dependable, longest-lasting full-size pickup on the road."

Ford's letter noted that the F-150 received top marks in crash testing, better than the Silverado's, and said that GM had "no basis" for any suggestion that the Silverado is either safer or more durable than its flagship truck.

GM thinks otherwise, of course, and will probably keep saying so in public. It's a safe bet that we haven't heard the last of this squabble. However, if you've been rooting for the revival of the American auto industry, that's probably a good thing.

At the time of publication, Motley Fool contributor John Rosevear owned shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Ford and General Motors, as well as creating a synthetic long position in Ford.



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197 Comments

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docmetcalf1955

what? people actually BUY chevy trucks?

February 10 2012 at 8:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
charlesnc1

This country is sadly in need of a lot more humor, the reaction here is proof of it. Did anyone object to the pepsi ad when the Coke guy won the millionth sale, It was funny just as the GM ad was, We are not devided by Red States or Blue States We are and certainly and I am American, proud of it! We need to get the sad news spread by hate and lies out of our lives and It needs to start now.

February 10 2012 at 5:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mdmichel8888

GM , FORD and CHRYSLER all have the same problem....these AMERICAN car companies cars are all built by GREAT workers who are reprensented by the UAW!!!!!!!!!!!

February 10 2012 at 5:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Mike

They breath there for they're owed. See what socialism gets you? Federalism has been destroyed by libtardism. Let fed default and fade away. We have 50 state govts to do the job and defense can be handled via treaty between states same as we do now for North America with Canada. Got gold?

February 10 2012 at 9:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

ford's problem is same as gm's, UAW,. Garbage in, garbage out!

February 10 2012 at 9:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
maa2626

there will be no gas or diesel to run your chevrolet, ford or dodge after the apocylpse. our family has a dodge (diesel) and ford that runs on CNG.

February 10 2012 at 6:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JAYJAY

VOTE FOR THE GOP IN NOVEMBER AND GET THE UNIONS OUT OF THIS PICTURE.........

February 09 2012 at 6:00 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JAYJAY's comment
mdmichel8888

so you suggest we get rid of all the workers at ford and replace them with new people.................because the UAW are the WORKERS!

February 10 2012 at 4:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
JAYJAY

LOLOLOL,,,,,SOUNDS LIKE ALOT OF FORD FAMILY IN HERE,,LOLOL,BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS BOTH TRUCKS ARE DECENT MACHINES....IF THE UAW WAS OUT OF THE PICTURE,,,THE TRUCKS WOULD LOOK AND RIDE LIKE TRUCKS MADE IN HEAVEN.....ITS HORRIBLE WHAT THE UAW HAS DONE TO THE AUTO INDUSTRY...A LOADED FORD KING RANCH WOULD COST 40% LESS IF THE UAW WAS OUT OF THE PICTURE........................

February 09 2012 at 5:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JAYJAY's comment
ericdohse

umm... JAYJAY... uh, what can I say to you... except, well... you are 100% CORRECT ON EVERY SINGLE ASPECT OF THE CASES YOU HAVE PRESENTED!!! UNIONs and Democrats are IN FACT...the root cause of all of America's greatest problems... Just think where this country would be without either of them....

February 12 2012 at 9:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
drhom

When the end of days comes I will be loading my F-150 SuperCrew with guns, ammo, beer, and women....not Twinkies!

February 09 2012 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lyndy

Does anyone remember the 70's when the Ford pickup would rust overnight in the driveway. Chevy had a rust problem also, the difference was the chevy at least stayed together, while the ford('72), needed metal parts attached to keep the front of the truck from breaking off near the hood hinges. Most of the information passed on by auto/truck makers, is unreliable. If a person takes care of their vehicle properly, any brand will last.

February 09 2012 at 2:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply