Friday, December 12, 2008

Lobbying in Plain Sight: The Auto Bailout on Twitter

Welcome, Twitterers, Diggers, Cornerites, readers from Social Media Today, Dalton's Briefs, Northwest Indiana Politics, Kicking Over My Traces and others. If you enjoy this post, I hope you'll take a look around the site. In addition to the auto bailout, I post a lot about the adventures of a red voter in a blue state, and on Iraq, the financial crisis, capitalism and more. Original post follows, more updates at the bottom.


I don't know what if anything will come of this, but it's fascinating -- beginning at about 10:30 a.m. today, Scott Monty, the head of social media for Ford (yes, there is such a function now), began a Twitter conversation with Michael P. Leahy, head of a new Twitter-powered conservative group called Top Conservatives on Twitter (#TCOT).

Even if you don't have a Twitter account, I believe you should be able to follow this search link, which currently shows the "Tweet" below as the first result:

If you click "Show Conversation" at the bottom of the Tweet, you'll get a screen that looks in part like this:

Leahy has appointed a #TCOT Project Servant-Leader (defined here) to review what Monty described as Ford's "well thought-out plan" for the future of Ford in the American auto industry. Since all of this is happening in Internet time, Leahy promises to finish the review today, and report back, "then u and i talk with CEO." Monty says he can't promise the CEO will take advice from #TCOT -- "We have a board."

Interestingly, Ford is not seeking bailout money at this time, but supports the bailout "to address the near-term liquidity issues of GM and Chrysler, as our industry is highly interdependent and a failure of one of our competitors could affect us all."

As I said, I'm not sure anything will come of it, but I'll report back when I know more. For now it looks like the bailout is dead in Congress, but the Bush administration is looking at repurposing some of the $700 billion financial bailout for the auto industry.

Update: Operation Ford Motor now has its own hash tag, #OFM, if you want to follow the action today.

1:50 pm - The Corner post was the traffic champ until a few minutes ago, sending about five readers per minute. Now all of a sudden Digg has taken control. Scott Monty, good sport that he is, asked his followers to Diggit.

Saturday: Follow-up post is here ...


  1. Great idea to engage the company in twitter, for the world to watch. Looks like Ford is the potential survivor, and GM and Chrysler probably get broken up and sold off in parts. That is what happens when companies stop innovating, roll over to unions, disregard distributors and customers and then come begging to banks and creditors.

  2. daltonsbriefs: You mean companies that don't innovate, disregard distributors and customers that aren't banks. Who got bailouts with no strings attached.

  3. Matt, I understand your dislike of the financial rescue (Wall Street bailout), but I think that one is a necessary evil. I explain why I think the two are different here.

    daltonsbriefs, thanks for the Digg :)

  4. Interesting experiment if nothing else. However, if they're not seeking a bailout, can the Twitterverse directly affect Ford?

  5. Batman, the concept is that #TCOT could help Ford sell cars if Ford renounces the bailout concept

  6. My wife and I are going to shop for a car this weekend for our teenage son, at this point I would prefer to buy American, but I'm troubled by the fact that they'll turn around and waste it on something green or union benefits. It's a tough call, but so far I think I'm still favoring buying from the first US auto maker to file bk.

  7. so nwiblogs, are you saying that it's not true that people won't buy cars from a company in bankruptcy? :)

  8. Modest proposals to Ford:

    1. Change the buying experience-- rip it up and start over. NO MORE HAGGLING. NO MORE DEALER BS. Use the internet. Let people customize their cars. Leverage social media to create communities of passionate car buyers who can educate, advocate, inform the rest of us.

    2. Related to #2, communicate with the public openly about how we can maximize the *value* we get from a Ford. Make it easy to calculate total cost of ownership, and then actually deliver lower TCO vs Toyota, Honda etc.

    3. Re. Toyota etc, there are millions of us who loathe the car-as-appliance concept. America is the leader in nearly every entertainment and most style categories. Cars are as much a form of entertainment as anything else. So why on earth can't the premier US auto brands deliver superior style, pizzazz, and performance? You guys gave us the Mustang. Do it again, and again and again.

    4. Re. #3, sorry to all my MI friends and family, but you've simply got to move your creative people out of the sad-sack, laggard industrial midwest and get them to California. This is where, as Apple's brand marketers say, people "think different." You need a few thousand such thinkers right now. You won't find them in Dearborn.

    5. Mr Mulally, please tell Wonder Boy aka POTUS-elect that you will take him up on his long-forgotten offer to federalize Detroit's healthcare obligations. If he wants higher CAFE standards, so be it. You can do it. Aim high. Think different. Be bold.

    We want you guys to succeed. We do not want to be stuck with 57 varieties of Japanese blandeur and overpriced, overrated German poseur-chariots. Give us back the company that created the Mustang.

    ex-Detroit, now of Silicon Valley

  9. Anyone who thinks the big 3 aren't innovative and don't sell cars people want aren't very well informed. Granted the unions has a strong hold on the companies but that was started way back in the days of Henry Ford I and all those workers in the foreign plants are benefitting from the unions. I'm not saying that U.S. hourly workers are worth an hourly rate of $20-40 for assembly line work. Thier wages have gotten ridiculously out of control but once the union moves in and after a 30 day strike it's kind of hard not to give in to some demands. As an engineering salaried employee I spent a lot of time in the plants and it was hard to accept that some of those guys made more than I did. The dems are drooling to get this union friendly card check bill passed as payment for union support. Backers of the bill seem to think it's fair to eliminate secret ballots. Fair for who? The unions of course. This will lead to coercion, intimidation and threats from unions to get workers to vote 'yes' on their ballots.

  10. Hank, as a former elected union official (Newspaper Guild, kind of a candy-ass union, but still...), I completely agree about secret ballots. Ballot box has to be secret or the right-to-work folks have no chance.

    Anonymous, I suspect that car dealerships collectively are a bigger business than car manufacturers. In any event, the Big 3 has little latitude to dictate to dealers.


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