DETROIT - It was an exciting Sunday afternoon for the nearly 3,000 Ford employees and retirees who crowded Joe Louis Arena in Detroit – with family and friends in tow – to attend a special employee preview of the Ford news conference at the 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Click here to watch event video.
Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford opened the program by wishing everyone a Happy New Year and recognizing the contributions made by all to the company’s success.
“I’d like to thank our employees, our retirees and your families because you’re all part of the Ford family, for all you’ve done to help bring our company back to greatness,” he said. “You all deserve a round of applause.”
Ford talked about the company’s growth in 2013, more than 10 percent compared to 2012.
“To me, growth is an opportunity to contribute to a better world for more people through great products, good jobs, stronger communities and the freedom of mobility,” he said.
Ford President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally talked about the continuing importance of the One Ford plan and providing customers with a diverse product portfolio.
“One Ford is focused on serving customers around the world with a full family of vehicles – small, medium and large cars, utilities and trucks – each delivering the very best quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value,” he said, noting that Ford and Lincoln will launch 23 new vehicles this year for customers around the world.
Mark Fields, Ford chief operating officer, briefed the crowd on the entire family of Ford vehicles – from the Fiesta to F-Series – as the various cars, utilities and trucks drove back and forth onto the stage behind him.
“A few years ago, particularly right here in the U.S., people knew Ford for our great trucks and Mustang but not for smaller, fuel-efficient cars,” he said. “Well times have really changed. Our greatest growth in the past seven years has been in our global car sales and utilities.”
When it was the Mustang’s turn to take the stage, the audience applauded boisterously. As the vehicle’s engine roared, Fields said, “I love that sound,” and the crowd cheered more.
But the biggest thrill of the day undoubtedly came when Ford President of The Americas Joe Hinrichs introduced the all-new Ford F-150.
“We live trucks at Ford,” he said. “And doing so means we can anticipate the needs of customers better than any other truck brand.”
After a dramatic video about the new F-150 resounded throughout the venue – causing the seats to vibrate – five brand new trucks crashed through the wall that formed the back of the stage and the audience cheered.
“Well, what do you think?” asked Raj Nair, group vice president, Ford Global Product Development, as the crowd applauded and whistled.
Following the program, employees, retirees and their guests were invited to come down to the stage to see the new F-150 and take pictures and talk with Ford, Mulally, Fields, Hinrichs and Nair.
Ford said the employee preview event is his favorite part of NAIAS.
“The energy is great and I always enjoy today because this is with our family. For them to be able to see all the cool stuff and to get excited about it excites me,” he said. “We have unbelievable men and women in this company who work incredibly hard and their families put up with a lot frankly, so it’s awesome to have them here and say thank you.”
Corbett Ogletree, a co-op student with Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT), said he was happy to have the opportunity to attend the event.
“I think it’s really nice to make that exclusivity to the employees because they are the core of the whole company. Giving them the opportunity to be the first ones to hear the news and see the sights and everything like that, I think that’s really beneficial to morale,” he said.
Chris Alberty, who works in Purchasing, said he thought the program was “unbelievable.”
“It was really cool to see the growth in our sales over the past few years and hear from management directly,” he said. “And the F-150 driving through the set was pretty awesome.”
Retired Ford Executive Allan Gilmour also attended Sunday’s preview event. He said he’s impressed with the diversity of the Ford product lineup.
“It’s terrific because you can’t tell what’s going to happen to the economy going forward or what’s going to happen to consumer tastes – whether they want cars, trucks or crossovers,” he said. “You have to have the full line if you’re going to be successful and going to be safe for that matter. And this is a terrific lineup.”
The undeniable star of the day, however, was the all-new F-150. The reveal of the truck was particularly exhilarating for Vehicle Operations’ Carol Slater, who worked on the new vehicle.
“I had tears in my eyes,” she said, describing the moment when the five F-150s made their grand entrance onto the stage. “I’m so proud. When I saw the truck for the first time it was exciting but now seeing it all painted and brushed up it just looks so beautiful.”
John Bucukovski, who works in Global Powertrain, described the new F-150 as “fantastic.”
“From the time you first see it you can definitely tell it’s an F-150 but it still has that wow factor of a new vehicle,” he said. “It’s going to be a great vehicle with all of the offerings you can get with the engine choices, trim levels, lightweight construction and fuel efficiency.”