Good Reputation Propels Ford Up Image Survey

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The last year has been a tough one for the Detroit car business, but one company — Ford — seems to have improved its image. A Harris Interactive poll indicates Ford rose 14 spots last year among the 60 most visible companies in America.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Ford was America's only Big Three carmaker to avoid bankruptcy last year. And as it weathered the recession, Ford also managed to improve its image - so found a poll that's out today, and NPR's Frank Langfitt looked at the reasons.

FRANK LANGFITT: Every year, Harris Interactive, a market research firm, measures the reputations of the 60 most visible companies in America. The biggest leap in the past year's rankings belong to Ford, which went to 51st to 37th.

Robert Frank works with Harris Interactive, and he says Ford's reputation improved in part because its vehicles have.

Mr. ROBERT FRANK (Harris Interactive): The perceptions of Ford's quality products actually finally caught up with the reality of it. They've been winning a number of quality awards for the last few years, but the general public hadn't yet given them the credit for that.

LANGFITT: Frank says respondents also gave Ford points for not taking government bailout money.

Mr. FRANK: The Ford answers are phenomenal, and we often, I think, don't give the American public enough credit for what they are paying attention to. So here was your general public, who were able to talk about things like they drew down their credit line three years ago, so they were prepared for bad times.

LANGFITT: Indeed, Ford mortgaged itself before the recession and had enough cash to solvent through the downturn. Of course, that's money Ford has to pay back, even as it tries to develop better vehicles. Harris Interactive surveyed nearly 30,000 people on the Internet to measure corporate reputations. As for the remaining Detroit car companies, Harris says GM and Chrysler ranked 54th and 55th out of 60.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News.

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