Dec 10, 2008

Ford in better shape than GM or Chrysler thanks to CEO

Here's what USA Today had to say about Ford and its CEO Alan Mulally in a profile published today on the one U.S. automaker not in need of a government handout. Business ain't exactly great, but at least this leader was a pragmatist and did what corporate leaders are supposed to do.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, an associate dean at the Yale School of Management, says Mulally's ability to move quickly and not let ego get in the way have helped the company achieve much more than many expected.

"He has surprised an awful lot of people," Sonnenfeld says. "He's had the courage to say he's largely accelerating a given plan, and he's fortified the top lieutenants around him. He's done a great job working with people who know what he doesn't know about the industry."

Mulally has said his strategy since he left running Boeing to take over Ford two years ago was to speed up the three-step line of attack the company had in place: cut production to match demand; make cars people want; and focus on core brands.

It's not complicated, but it has meant breaking with old Detroit ways of doing things, selling brands people admired and laying off tens of thousands.

Plus, he made one key decision three months into his tenure that set up Ford's cash cushion today. In December 2006, Mulally decided to mortgage all of Ford's assets — plants, buildings, real estate, patents and trademarks, including the Blue Oval — for $23.4 billion in cash. ...

... Until recently, the Detroit automakers often made more money in a quarter from their banking operations than from making cars.

Under Ford's plan, revenue won't look as rosy as in the past because demand-driven production totals will be lower. But if that means cars can be sold without costly sales incentives, profits should improve.

"This is a completely new business plan, where we take the hurt," Mulally says. "We are going to be the leader in sizing our operations to the real demand out there. And we'll keep doing it. … No matter when (the market) comes back, no matter what the industry is, we've sized our operations to the real demand."

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