Don't Lump Ford In With GM and Chrysler

Ford didn't need a government bailout like GM and Chrysler did, so why are they still called the Big Three?
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Look at this headline from this morning's Wall Street Journal: "Michigan Governor Fights for Big 3 -- and Her Future." The article proceeds to repeat the "Big Three" moniker a couple of times.

The

Journal

is by no means alone here. You can find the same dated, misleading reference pretty much anywhere.

Considering the current reality, how long should the term The Big Three stick? At least

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

and

Chrysler

ain't so big anymore, unless you mean in terms of looses and possible defaults. More important, in order to understand the American automobile industry as it currently stands (or sways), let's be clear: This is no longer a group of three.

General Motors and Chrysler, the Lame Two, put their hands out for government charity in the form of a $17.4 billion bailout. They are faltering to such a degree that defaults on debt were termed imminent.

Ford

(F) - Get Report

, in significantly better shape, has shown it can cut costs. Though there's a chance it came too little too late, Ford has also rolled out a well-reviewed stable of new cars.

The Business Press Maven has tried to separate out Ford in the recent past, to note that whatever its fate (and it is still undetermined), it must be seen in a more promising and favorable light than GM and Chrysler. Its management is better. Its cars are better. It did not take the government's money, so it will not have to deal with the government's cumbersome interference.

Yet we see the same reference to the Big Three we have seen since before Sputnik. As if they were a collective. Let it never be said that the business media does not fall in love with a phrase, beyond all reason and reality. Problem is, phraseology has subliminal effects on the thinking of savvy investors. If everywhere you look you read "Big Three," you inevitably think of these three auto companies as inexorably tied to each other, their fates all tilting in the same direction.

Today, we have the

Journal

. Yesterday, in a

The New York Times

article, we had the phrase "

all the auto-lending units of the Big Three

." You can only guess where you'll see the reference tomorrow.

You might read about The Big Three. Just don't believe it.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page. For his "Business Press Maven� column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Fuchs appreciates your feedback;

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