Imported, Indeed. Made in USA Foundation Confronts Automotive False Advertising

Posted by | October 11, 2011 | Disputes, General | 2 Comments
Imported from where?

Chrysler 300 Ad ~ Wall St Journal

Yesterday, The Made in the USA Foundation (Foundation) filed two petitions with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  The petitions requested that the FTC issue complaints, one against Chrysler (here) and the other against Ford (here), both for falsely advertising that certain automobiles they manufacture are made in the U.S. when they in fact are not.

According to its website:

[framed_box] The Made in the USA Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting products manufactured and assembled in the USA.  Through legislation, litigation, advocacy, and community outreach we can create US jobs and a stable, healthy economy. [/framed_box]

Hmmm.  A stable, healthy economy based on manufacturing?  Sounds like something our country could use right about now, doesn’t it?

Ironically, when the Made in the USA Foundation was founded in 1989 Ford initially funded it!  I bet all of Ford’s cars really were manufactured here in the states back then.  Now, however, according to the Foundation’s petition, Ford is marketing its Ford Edge car as being an “American car,” implying the car was made here, when in fact it is made in Canada.  Yup.  Canada.  The complaint also alleges that Ford illegally removes country-of-origin stickers (required by the American Automobile Labeling Act) from its auto-show display cars, a practice also employed by many of its auto dealers from the cars on their lots.  Not cool, Ford!  What?  Is FORD also an acronym for Found Outsourcing & Removing Documents?  As if Fixed Or Repaired Daily wasn’t bad enough?!

Ok, so we know about Ford, now what about Chrysler?

I’d characterize this as less irony, more sneakiness.  In the ad at the top of this post, you can see Chrysler’s tagline “Imported from Detroit.”  According to the press release issued yesterday by Made in the USA Foundation’s General Counsel, Joel Joseph, the ads are “clever, but false.”  This also is stated in the Foundation’s FTC petition against Chrysler.

Chrysler began its “Imported from Detroit” TV ad campaign during the Super Bowl 2011.  The Foundation’s petition states that, “The clear and unambiguous statement meant that its cars are “Made in the United States of America.””  Worse yet, the Foundation claims that these ads are “continuing and multiplying.”  (Anyone else picturing bunnies?)  The ads are false and misleading because two of the vehicles promoted by the ads are made in Canada, and one (the Chrysler 300) often contains a Mexican-made engine.  As with Ford, the Foundation asserts that Chrysler also illegally removes country-of-origin stickers from its auto-show display cars and vehicles on its dealers’ lots.

Both petitions seek the FTC to order the automobile manufacturers to institute corrective advertising and to post prominently on all vehicles at auto shows and in showrooms the country of origin of the vehicles.  Doesn’t sound like too much to ask, and the latter is already required by law (which unfortunately could be a reason for the FTC to deny that request, although presumably it not would do so were it to substantiate that the Foundation’s claims about sticker removal).

Will these petitions, and/or action by the FTC drive the auto makers to change their marketing tactics?  Let’s hope so.

Cleverness only works if it’s honest.  Deceit is neither clever, nor cool.  In today’s age of social media, most companies — especially successful companies — can be sure consumer groups and bloggers are watching and will take them to task when their actions don’t match their words.  That, I think, is very cool.

 

 

 

 

 

About Lara

Lara Pearson is a trademark attorney with Exemplar, where she also serves as the firm's Sustainability Steward. Lara's legal practice focuses on trademark and copyright law, including: intellectual property audits; trademark search & clearance; trademark and copyright registration & maintenance; intellectual property transfers; transactional work; and dispute resolution, including litigation when necessary. Lara primarily represents other social enterprises -- those leveraging their businesses and brands as catalysts for positive social and environmental change. Such businesses engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to have a positive "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit. As Exemplar's Sustainability Steward, Lara works with others in her law firm to measure and reduce the firm's carbon emissions and encourage engagement in social responsibility initiatives, including pro bono legal work and volunteering. Lara is a proud member of the Social Venture Network. Brand Geek is a member of 1% for the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, whose Incline Village office is certified under the regional Keep the Sierra Green program. Exemplar Companies is the most innovative professional services firm in the New Economy. Our unique, diversified expertise spans the disciplines of corporate law, business advisory, and capital/investment banking to better meet the needs of our high-potential customers. We have assembled a comprehensive suite of service to meet the complex issues facing companies in today’s challenging business environment. Our unique, holistic approach ensures the growth and success – and greatly increases the competitive advantage - of our customers. The Exemplar team is comprised of knowledgeable, highly skilled experts in a wide range of industries and disciplines. They work closely with our customers to provide trusted advice, incomparable support, expert guidance and the ultimate competitive advantage as they accelerate their businesses and position themselves to transform industries.

2 Comments

  • Joe Lillis says:

    Hey: I don’t understand your thinking or comments. Most companies want to leave this counry for manufacturing. Why? Could it be rules and regulations. I was reading Joel Josephs article in business times. He thinks now that Jobs is gone apple will bring jobs back to this country. No Way! It’s not just the lower wages its the rules and regulations this socialist on the brink of communist government has set up. GE just pulled one of its big manufacturing plants out of Miluake, Wis. I think thats the place. 5 billion in payroll last year. Went to China. If we don’t get rid of his big handed government ruling us we are all going to be living under socialism with no manufacturing, or private sector jobs.

    A building permit in my little town of Fairfield, CAlif for a 3 bedroom two bath house is 53,000 on a finished lot. If you put in the lots add another 15 to 25 thousand to that. In Livermore California a building permit is 125,000 for a 3/2 house.

    I’m a builder. Haven’t done anything in 3 and a half years. The last subdivision of fifty houses in Sacramento, CA. We waited two and ahalf years to get the permit to start.

    Oh and guess what folks. You will be moving your Made in America business out of here if we go socialistic or communistic. They review everything you write. If they don’t like it you don’t print it. Thats why I can’t understand the press being for liberals. They will be the first to go. Unless they want to join the government, and get paid pennies or nothing. No one gets it.

    • Lara says:

      Even though we have differing views, I really appreciate the fact that you made the time to read my post and share your opinion. I’m grateful to live in a country where we have freedom of expression. Though this right and many others have eroded in recent years, we are still far more fortunate than many, many others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.