The Insider Talks Ford and Mulally

In this edition of The Insider, Driven’s editorialist shows the ♥ for Ford’s President and CEO Alan Mulally.  No doubt Alan’s done some smart things (and the competitors have stumbled).  So as always, read, contemplate and post your opinion.

I was able to interview Mr. Mulally as he came through Seattle to promote Ford and the then new Taurus.  That video has been posted if you want to hear the boss talking up his newly competitive company.

Mulally for President?

I’m not actually proposing this mainly because I think he’s too smart to take the job.  And, I’m pretty sure he’s already in line for sainthood.  If there’s a patron saint of making your own luck, I’d vote for St. Alan of Dearborn.

Much has been written on how brilliant a leader Mulally is and how he is one of the greatest CEO’s in automotive history.  I’ll agree with much of what’s been said, and also add that he has balls the size of watermelon to take the risk that he took when he arrived at Ford in 2006.  You probably know the story of how Mulally got to town and realized that Ford was quickly going broke.  They were burning cash at a furious pace and would not have the funds to keep the doors open for long.  So Alan mortgaged everything he could get his hands on, down to the desk chairs and staplers.  He even hocked the Ford Blue Oval and all the brand names that go with it.  Luckily, he got the cash while it was still available, something GM and Chrysler weren’t able to do.  With $23 billion of fresh cash in his pocket, along with several more billion from cost cuts and asset sales, Mulally dumped most of it into new product development on a global scale.  He unified North American and European product development, the first Ford CEO that has been able to do that, and brought real global platforms to the market.  The savings in development and production costs run in the billions.

Because of Mulally’s foresight, he was able to keep Ford out of the hands of the government, and give the company a huge boost in public opinion.  Most importantly, he got Americans to start thinking about Ford again, and once they did people came to realize that the Blue Oval makes some very good cars.  This would not have happened if Ford had followed the others into bankruptcy.  Ford separated themselves from the domestic pact and allowed import buyers to put Ford on their shopping list.

The other convenient bit of luck to come Ford’s way has been the utter self destruction of Toyota.  You couldn’t have planned this better if you tried, having your most formidable competitor shoot themselves not only in the foot, but also in the hand, face, ass, and anything else you can think of.  As the mess got bigger, Toyota customers ran for the door and along with Hyundai, Ford was there to scoop them up.  Of course, if Mulally hadn’t gotten things in order on the product and financial side, Ford never would have been in a position to capitalize on this turn of events.  St. Alan made his own luck.

So, while some may think it’s better to be lucky than good, the really smart people know that if you have your house in order, the luck will find you.  Nice job Mr. Mulally.

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