The dramatic bailout of GM and Chrysler captured America’s attention for those few short months in 2009, as the two companies fought for money from the federal government and received the scrutiny and scorn of conservatives and liberals alike. But despite their bankruptcy, one domestic company (well, the only one remaining) has seemingly escaped the ire of the public eye: Ford, which has taken $5.9 billion from the government in loans—and is still paying it off.
GM and Chrysler have already paid their dues, literally and figuratively, with the United States government. But back in 2009, the Treasury put up $8.8 billion for green energy initiatives known as the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, with $25 billion total earmarked for companies who would borrow the money to build greener cars. Nissan, Tesla, and Fisker all took $2 billion or less, to invest in manufacturing facilities and tooling. All three companies now build electric vehicles and will be paying off their loans in various stages by the end of the year.
And Ford? While arguably the largest company to take this investment, it also took the largest chunk: $5.9 billion, which it says is going towards building the C-MAX Energi and the Focus Electric. It will be spending $14 billion over the next seven years on alternative-fuel vehicles.
Spending money is easy, as we all know. But paying it back off isn’t—while Ford will begin repaying the government next month, it estimates that the full amount will be paid off in 10 years.
Remember, all three companies flew down to Washington DC (in private jets, adding to more hubbub) to ask for money back in late 2008, and Ford initially asked for $11.4 billion. The Treasury Department cut it down to the current $5.9 billion,and only if Ford promised to build green cars with it. Like GM and Chrysler, Ford would have faltered if it hadn’t gotten its hot cash injection. GM and Chrysler have paid off their debts, for the most part: the government owns a third of GM as well as its finance department, while $1.3 billion may have disappeared into the ether of the bankrupt remains of old Chrysler.
Ford owes $577 million by next year, to kick off payments. Its C-MAX Hybrid will go on sale by the end of the year, with the Energi to come out next year. By the time the Fusion Energi, the Focus Electric, and possibly a hybrid pickup truck roll around, we’ll be able to sample the fruits of this loan, and remind ourselves that at least something came from it.