Didn't see this posted anywhere...sorry if a respost
SOURCE: Detroit News
SOURCE: Detroit News
MORE HEREMulally's Ford looks a lot like Toyota
Friday, July 25, 2008
Before he left a 37-year career at Boeing Co. nearly two years ago to run Ford Motor Co., CEO Alan Mulally was a Toyota aficionado: He drove a Lexus luxury sedan; he studied Toyota's production system; he adapted it, surprising some, to the assembly of airliners.
Now his planned makeover of Ford, delivered Thursday along with a record $8.7 billion second-quarter loss, essentially aspires to turn the Blue Oval into a Dearborn-based Toyota Motor Corp. in the space of roughly one product cycle.
The new Ford -- or, as Mulally prefers it, "One Ford" -- would have fewer brands, greater economies of scale, more clearly defined models and a more balanced portfolio of high-quality, fuel-efficient cars, crossovers, hybrids, SUVs and trucks with the eponymous Ford at its center.
If Mulally and his team succeed, Ford will have a chance to prosper again and reports of Ford's imminent death, like Mark Twain's, will have been exaggerated. If that's not a big, hairy audacious goal for a company long plagued with sclerotic bureaucracy, vicious executive politicking, timid product decisions and unfulfilled promises, I don't know what is.
The Ford of Alex Trotman and Jacques Nasser and Bill Ford Jr. and Jim Padilla and a host of others who presided nobly over decline is breaking with its past and trying to embrace a leaner, more flexible, more realistic, more Toyota-esque future. That Mulally proposes to do it as quickly as he does is as breathtaking as it is a signal of how serious Ford's predicament truly has become.
Ford going 'all in' to revive
There will be fewer trucks and more gas-electric hybrids. There will be fewer U.S.-only products that no one outside the States, save Swiss collectors and Italian moguls, actually want to own. Fuel-efficiency, crisp product execution and, yes, a recognition of Ford's superior European car fleet will be the new norm -- assuming the troops can execute Mulally's expansive vision.
And if they can't -- partly because they don't really believe that the world has changed, that oil prices will remain volatile, that the era of Explorers and Expeditions and boaty Crown Vics isn't truly over or that Ford as they know it could disappear -- they can't say it's because no one told them.
Mulally did. Consumers did. The success of foreign-owned rivals did. So did bloggers, oil traders, the automotive media, Republicans, Democrats and, to cap it off, the president of the United States with his crack about Detroit's need to build "relevant" products.
Ford's confirmation of its atrocious second-quarter numbers in North America and its planned response to them is equal parts past and future. But the future part is far more important than the abysmal results of the past three months, which have blown massive holes in the financials of just about every automaker operating in the United States -- Toyota included -- thanks to $4-a-gallon gas, plunging home values and slumping consumer confidence.
"It's decisive forward thinking," Mulally told The Detroit News in an interview, a mildly self-congratulatory remark that has the additional virtue of being true (if only part of the story). It's also necessary, because Ford's reliance on gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs, coupled with its regional fiefdoms around the world, were combining to kill the company that put the world on wheels.
Execution will be Job One
And yet. Ford being Ford and this being Detroit, the epicenter of denial, myriad questions loom -- many of which the brass won't touch, at least not publicly.
Can Ford, allegedly determined to embrace the world as it really is, actually make enough money off small cars (even well-appointed and pricier ones) to offset the revenue and profit lost from each F-Series pickup and SUV they don't sell?
If the engineers and manufacturing folks can convert three truck plants to car production and deliver the six European-based vehicles to American showrooms, will the automaker be able to muster the kind of advertising and marketing support that will be needed to persuade U.S. buyers that tomorrow's Ford isn't so yesterday?