DEARBORN -- @Ford Online recently interviewed Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally regarding the state of the business and industry. Read below to find out what he had to say.
Q. We talk quite a bit about Great Products, Strong Business and Better World. And this is a really great time for “great products” as we are in the midst of what may be our busiest launch year ever for new product, powertrain and technology. What are you most excited about?
A. Well, I think what I’m most excited about is the fact that Ford now has a complete family of Ford vehicles – small, medium and large, cars, utilities and trucks – and that every one of them now is considered by most third parties and really smart people as being absolutely best-in-class in quality, fuel efficiency, safety, really smart design and of course the very best value. To have products that people really do want and value is of course what we all live for. I think that’s the most exciting thing about our product line.
Q. Is there any particular product that stands out?
A. Absolutely. I love the Ka. I love the Fiesta. The Focus is dynamite. The new Fusion coming together is wonderful and of course the Taurus is a fabulous vehicle. There’s the Mustang, which we all love. And I really like the Escape, the Edge and the Flex, and we just revealed the new Explorer and the Expedition, the new Ranger worldwide and the F-Series, the E-Series and the new Transit Connect. Then there is our new cargo vehicle that we have in South America and around the world. I think I love all of those the best.
Q. How do you think the company is doing sticking to our quality commitments in the middle of all this activity?
A. I think we’re doing really well. I give a lot of credit to Jim Farley and the Marketing team because when Jim arrived, one of the most important pieces of advice he gave all of us was don’t talk about what you’re going to do, but let each one of our new products tell the Ford story. Between Derrick and Jim and the rest of the team we decided that quality, fuel efficiency, safety and really smart design would be the hallmark of every Ford vehicle. And it started with the quality. To see the quality numbers and the continuous improvement and now be considered to have the finest quality of any automobile company in the world is like our entree into a very exciting future.
Q. Many people think of quality in terms of manufacturing, but you’ve really instilled a quality culture here at Ford. What can each employee throughout the company do to contribute to quality?
A. That’s a very important question. One of the neat things about the way that we manage Ford is that every leader on the team is on our team. So Communications, Product Development, Engineering, Manufacturing and Quality – every skill team is on the team and joins each of the business unit leaders around the world. And part of our plan is continuous quality improvement forever – every quarter, every year, forever by every skill team, every function. So Derrick leading Product Development has a plan to lead the quality of the vehicles. Communications has a plan to improve the quality of communications. And also along with that there is basic productivity. So every year you’re seeing this improvement not only in the quality of Ford in every function and every vehicle, but also we’re getting more productive. Great companies not only make the best products in the world, but they also continue to improve their quality and productivity. I think it’s so exciting that everybody is on the leadership team, and everybody is contributing to the quality and productivity improvement.
Q. You mentioned the dealers. There was a time when our Ford dealers were not very happy. How do the dealers and the other stakeholders that you commonly refer to think that the company is doing right now?
A. That’s a really neat question because when we came together around the One Ford plan, our goal and the vision we had would be talented people working together as a global enterprise and also leading in automotive operations. We also said that that would be measured by the satisfaction of each of the stakeholders – our consumers, investors, employees, dealers, suppliers, the unions, the bankers – because if you create a profitably growing company then everybody associated with the enterprise is going to be involved. They’re going to be excited.
And so we’ve been measuring every one of those constituents’ satisfaction. Just take a look at our employee survey today. Eight-seven percent of all of us feel like we’re going in the right direction. They love our products. They love what we’re doing. The dealers are rating their stores the highest value they’ve ever had in their history. We’ve moved from being an automotive company that suppliers really didn’t want to work with to being the number one automaker they like being with. You look at our stock price. People have invested, and they’ve generated a pretty reasonable return for investing with Ford so they’re excited about it. And of course the communities in which we live are so excited because we’re actually growing now, converting truck plants to car plants and providing great jobs, great careers. So I think the more you include everybody associated with the enterprise and you have a profitably growing company then everybody is going to benefit, and everybody is going to be happy being associated with Ford.
Q. How does that make you feel personally as the leader of the company?
A. It’s clearly an honor for me to serve. I had the honor to serve Boeing for 37 years, and when I got a call from Bill Ford, I just kept thinking, this is Ford. I grew up in Lawrence, Kansas. The Blue Oval was there. They fixed our cars when we needed it. It was the fabric of the community. And here was Ford asking for help. I remember when it got down to it, I was deciding to serve a second American global icon. I’m just so excited for everybody associated with Ford that we have pulled together around a new direction for the company based on making the best cars in the world and serving all of our customers around the world. So it’s very satisfying.
Q. The global economy seems to be struggling more than many experts expected. What is your outlook? What do you think is going to happen?
A. I’m really encouraged with the progress we’re making. Clearly, this is a public-private partnership, and it’s this way all around the world – the United States, Europe, Asia-Pacific. And we have gone through probably the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression in the United States. So to have us coming back, even though it’s a slower recovery than in the past, is a very positive thing. I think the most important thing that we do now is we continue to work together in public-private partnership because the most important thing is that we grow the economy. If we do that then we’ll be able to contribute to all of the issues we all care about. But it’s all based on a growing economy. I’m so pleased with Ford’s contribution. During the worst downturn, we actually accelerated the development of the new cars and trucks that people want. So we are now here as we are coming out of the recession with the vehicles that people really do want and value and jobs that people really do treasure. So we’ve got to pay attention to it. We’ve got to keep a laser focus on it – government and private industry, fiscal and monetary policy. I think if we just keep pulling together around what we need to do to keep enhancing this economic development, we’re going to be fine.
Q. Some analysts are speculating that we may be in for a double-dip recession. If that happens, are we prepared for it?
A. Absolutely. And the neatest thing about the One Ford plan is the number one point is to size our production to real demand and operate very profitably. And as tough as that action was, we are in a position now where we are operating profitably in a substantially lower market. Now if it slows down a little bit we will keep addressing that lower production. But I think we’re near the bottom and growing. The neatest thing about Ford is that we have positioned ourselves so that if it comes back a little bit faster – the economy comes back and the industry comes back and of course our market share is increasing based on the strength of our products – we have the room to flex up and provide the vehicles in the amounts that people really do want. So I think all the work that we have done at Ford over these last four years has really prepared us to profitably grow the company going forward for the good of all of us.
Q. How important is it to manufacture to economic development and right-size manufacturing?
A. Manufacturing is just so important to every country around the world but especially the United States because we grew up and created so much value for so many people and all of our lifestyles by focusing on enabling technology and of course innovation no matter what field we’re in. Manufacturing with the enabling technology on aerodynamics, integrated electronics, materials and everything associated with these fabulous vehicles – the quality, the fuel economy and safety – we are positioned to be part of the answer to not only the economic growth but what are we as a country going to continue to do about energy independence, energy security and also environmental sustainability. I really believe that the automotive industry – and especially Ford – is positioned to be part of that solution for the good of all of us. So it’s just so important that we are competitive as a country on using enabling technology and innovation to create all of these fabulous opportunities.
Q. The Asia-Pacific team is leading the company in a very aggressive effort to establish Ford in that region. Why? Why now?
A. It’s a perfect time because we’re operating profitably now in all of our operations around the world – in Europe, South America, North America, Canada, Asia-Pacific. Up until now, until we got the company operating and profitably growing, we had limited options on growing in Asia-Pacific, which is the fastest growth area in the world. But now that we are operating, now that we have One Ford, now that we have product development that goes across the world, we are in a fantastic position to now bring all of our wonderful products and services to Asia-Pacific – especially India and China. So it’s going to be the fastest growing market in the world. We’ll always pay attention to all the markets around the world but to use and leverage all of our assets worldwide and bring that scale and bring that value and all that intellectual capability now to Asia-Pacific is a very exciting opportunity. That’s why you see us really focusing and adding talent and investment to serve our Asia-Pacific customers.
Q. What can the rest of the company to do help that effort?
A. The most important thing is that we continue to do what we’re doing. The Ford team – the leadership team, our matrix organization, our really strong functional skill teams and process owners – has embraced and is really supporting the businesses around the world. And the most important thing is that we all stay so aware about what the plan really is in every region around the world. What’s the plan for Product Development? What is the Communications plan? Where are we against that plan? What’s the status? Do we have areas that need special attention? And then just pull everybody in to help support it and contribute to it. Not only to help support it and contribute to it but to really enjoy it. This is a fantastic time for Ford and a fantastic time to be contributing to Ford. So I just hope everybody just takes a breath every day and just really appreciates what they’re doing to create a very strong, viable, growing company for all of us. And that they really enjoy the journey and each other along the way here. This is really, really fun.
Q. What can each employee do to help deliver the Ford plan?
A. I’ve never seen a more skilled and motivated team than I’ve seen at Ford over the last four years. People come to Ford because they want to work for the best car and truck company in the world. It’s important for economic development. It’s important for energy independence and security. It’s so important for sustainability. So I think the most important thing we all do is we keep being part of the further enhancement and development and improvement of the plan and then really understand where our contribution fits in. Ask how we can help more, how we can enhance our contribution. And then really understand where we have gaps and help to close those gaps against the plan. We have a great process. We’ve got a great team. I think us pulling together even tighter around this plan is going to enhance our success going forward.
Q. How much longer will you stay on as President and CEO?
A. I was watching TV the other day, and Matt Lauer noted that it may be a few more years. I love serving at Ford. I have no plans of leaving Ford. I’m so glad that I came. I love the Ford team. I love our extended enterprise with our dealers, suppliers and investors and I’m absolutely honored to serve.