These are challenging times to
say the least and navigating the
present and future automotive
environment will take leadership
and vision. The Big Three
automakers have taken it on
the chin. And even some of
the top automotive names like
Porsche and Mercedes have
encountered a black eye and a
swollen cheek along the way!
We are familiar with the annual
‘Car of the Year‘ award, but who
is the automotive ‘Man of the Year?’
About a year ago, the top brass of Detroit’s Big Three were on Capitol Hill regarding
the bailout hearings. The Senators at those hearings and the American public wanted
answers, period! At one point, the executives were asked if they would work for a year
for one dollar. After all, the car companies had been performing poorly for a long time.
One of the executives responded to the one dollar question with, “I think I am OK
where I am.” A wise guy, huh! Who was this man? Well, he has been named as
the automotive Man of the Year by Automotive Magazine. He is Ford Motor
Company’s CEO – Alan Mulally!
Of Mulally Automobile Magazine says, “Alan Mulally was, and is, worth whatever
Ford is paying him, because he has almost single-handedly saved the automaker.
The Ford Motor Company, unlike its two Detroit rivals, has not declared bankruptcy
and has not dipped its hand into the TARP trough. In fact, Mulally took a 30 percent
pay cut and declared that he would indeed reduce his salary to $1 per year if Ford took
government funds.” As a result of Mulally, Ford stands alone as the only one of the
Big Three to still be an independent automaker.
Regarding Mulally, remember that he came to Ford in 2006 with no automotive
experience. He had been the number two man at the aircraft maker Boeing. Auto
industry observers were shocked as never before had someone from outside the
industry been appointed to such a high level position. However, Bill Ford Jr. knew
that Mulally had the ability to reinvent the entire corporate culture and Ford really
After coming on board with Ford, Mulally sensed the condition of the automotive
industry in general. Thus, he quickly moved to make certain that Ford had enough
cash on hand to survive the storm of recession. To achieve this, he mortgaged all
of Ford’s assets on Wall Street to net 23.5 billion. Mulally suggests that the
bankers gave him the money because he had a plan. At the time, however, Ford’s
product lineup was in disarray even compared to GM’s. Mulally was dismayed
that the longstanding Taurus nameplate was being scrapped. One of the first things
he did was to resurrect the name to start moving the automaker in the right direction.
Mulally is a Kansas native who forgoes tailored suites in favor of khakis and dark
blue blazers. He also came to Ford with a ‘laser focus,’ something that served him
well at Boeing. Thus, he got rid of offshoots such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston
Martin and any other costly baubles. He then put his full attention into Ford and
Lincoln with the goal of taking them to the top.
In the past, Ford was spread too thin with conflicting cross purposes among its
internal management. Mulally has united the members of Ford and sent the others
packing. The result has been a cohesive working unit of Ford management.
Finally, Ford is bringing its well established vehicles from Europe to the United
States. In this regard, Mulally says that Boeing offered one 737 airliner for all
markets not a separate jet for different markets.
Ford is not out of the woods yet as the automaker continues to bleed cash
and Mulally admits that the company will not likely turn a profit until 2011.
However, despite this tough automotive environment, Ford is likely to capitalize
on the public’s good will as the automaker was able to say ‘No Thanks’ to the
government’s cash offer. And today, the automotive Man of the Year is to be
Kyle Busch is the author of “Drive the Best for the Price…” He
welcomes your comments or car questions at his auto web site: