Mulally, a Kansas native who eschews tailored suits for khakis and blue blazers, has also brought what he calls a "laser focus" to the Ford brand. The company's core operations had been neglected for years by FoMoCo executives in favor of Ford's seemingly more glamorous acquisitions, Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, Volvo, and Mazda. Mulally reduced Ford's stake in the latter and has sold off all of the other expensive baubles except Volvo, which might have a new owner by the time you read this. The Ford brand is now king in Dearborn, and Lincoln, also long neglected, is the crown prince.
Ford suffered for years from an insular, back-stabbing executive culture with fiefdoms spread around the globe that paralyzed the company's decision-making. Mulally has managed to unite (or send packing) these competing factions and establish an executive team - composed largely of Ford veterans - whose members actually work together for a common purpose. Sounds simple, but this wasn't always the case at FoMoCo. Ford is also fully leveraging its worldwide capabilities, finally answering the pleas of American enthusiasts who long have coveted the cool Fords sold in Europe. To Mulally, the Boeing veteran, this only makes sense: "We didn't have one 737 for the United States and another one we made for the rest of the world," he remarks wryly. Next summer, we'll get the Fiesta, a world-class small car that was designed and engineered in Germany and Belgium, and we'll also get the new global Focus.
To be sure, Ford is hardly out of the woods. The carmaker is still hemorrhaging cash and is buried under an avalanche of debt, and Mulally admits that Ford won't make a profit until at least 2011. And although Mulally has brought clarity to Ford's product lineup, his efforts there are only a first step. Ford is still relying too heavily on reworked versions of aged platforms from Volvo and Mazda, and the Dearborn engineering crew's knowledge base is still skewed too heavily toward trucks and SUVs. The Fusion Hybrid is great, but the handsome new Taurus falls short of world-class status.
Despite these challenges, the Ford Motor Company is in a position to succeed and to capitalize on the public goodwill generated by saying "no, thanks" to the Feds. The company is just beginning to find its way, but with Alan Mulally at the wheel, we're confident it will soon not simply survive, but prosper.