With unemployment in the U.S. hovering right around 8%, and with economists and other watchers seeing yet more job losses to come, not to mention the still tight credit markets, no one is taking the risk to buy a new car for fear that somewhere in the near future they may find themselves ultimately unable to pay for it. And, of course, that's smart thinking.
But Ford Motor Company is having none of that, and naturally, they want you to go out and get a car—a Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury no less. Their sales have been in the dumps for a long time now, thanks to all this economic gloom and doom and sky-falling speak, and it's absolutely vital to their survival that they do something to add to car sales.
Until June 1st, Ford is offering car buyers a payment protection plan good for one year's worth of payments of up to $700 a month if the buyer should suddenly find him or herself in the unemployment line. If you think about it, coupled with dealer incentives galore and zero percent interest financing available to qualified buyers, now may be just the time to buy that shiny new Ford.
It may also be the best time to buy the company itself.
Okay, okay. Ford is in bad shape if you compare it to its history. But then, the entire U.S. auto industry is in bad shape. Auto workers are being laid off. Plants are being shuttered. It's crickets in Detroit. And that ominous word "bankruptcy" is being tossed around an awful lot lately. So why on Earth would anyone want to invest in what seems like a sinking ship? I must be out of my tree.
The good news is that Ford is, for the most part, sound. It's getting its act together, thanks in large part to the brilliance of its current leader Mulally. It hasn't taken a single dime from the government. It's freed itself from Jaguar and Land Rover, which were costly and unprofitable enterprises. And it's landed concessions—and good ones—with the UAW. If anyone is going to come out on top when the proverbial manure settles after being hit by the fan, it is going to be Ford without a doubt. Besides, they still make the #1 best-selling truck in America, and their new line of cars are, in my opinion, looking pretty darn sharp. The new Lincolns are spot-on as well, and I think can easily give Cadillac, Lexus, and Infinity a strong run for their money. To borrow a phrase, these aren't your grandpa's Lincolns.
Granted, the company still has quite a bit of ground to cover before it returns to profitability, and who knows exactly when this economy is going to finally go off its life support. But this is a long-term play. If you have the time, are willing to be patient, and gradually build your position over the next 3-5 years, I think you'll be very pleased looking back.
Full disclosure: Jim Bauer currently owns stock in Ford Motor Company.
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