DEARBORN – Mark Fields, executive vice president, Ford Motor Company, and president, The Americas, discusses progress in North America with @Ford Online.
Q. What stands out for you when you look over the progress in North America over the past five years?
A. I think a couple of things stand out.
One is we set out to bring products that people really want and value. The entire team has done a fantastic job of essentially reinventing the entire Ford product lineup, and doing so in a way that resonates with customers – actually surprising the heck out of customers who haven't been in our showrooms in a long time. They're just blown away at the overall level of our cars and trucks. Then there's the quality, the fuel efficiency, the safety and the technology in our vehicles.
Another thing that stands out is that we set out to rebalance our portfolio in terms of not being too reliant on trucks and SUVs. If you look at our sales today, it is very balanced with small, medium and large cars, trucks, utilities. We're doing well and really growing in each one of those areas. The work the team has done on the brand has been spectacular in terms of the improvements we've had in our brand health and people's perception of the Ford brand.
A third item is the way we've managed through this downturn to keep production going and keep quality levels where we need them to be. For instance the purchasing team has worked hand-in-hand with the supply base through a very turbulent period. We've kept the plants running and most importantly we've improved quality along the way.
Finally, when you look at all the elements that we laid out on the plan originally, the team is delivering on those. And that's what stands out, the consistency of purpose and delivering on our commitments.
Q. What aspects of our progress are most impressive to you?
A. Three things have blown me away. First of all I am so impressed by our people who have been through so much. But as I visit and talk with people inside and outside the company, I am always impressed by the capability and the knowledge of our folks and the respect that they have from the outside.
Second, is the team’s passion about working for Ford – their passion around making achievements and really being able to follow through and fulfill their objectives. They feel so good now about Ford and about working in a company that is growing again. And that Ford pride just comes through. There's that saying when you cut us "we bleed Ford blue." We can't really describe it, but I see it in everybody's eyes. And that's what blows me away.
Third, one of the original objectives we had when we set out on this journey was to start growing the company again and we're doing that now in the U.S. and in Canada and reversing that market share loss that we've had for many, many years.
Q. How does our progress tie to the jobs we’ve announced we are ‘insourcing?’
A. We've made a lot of decisions in the company over the years to outsource certain components either because we didn't have the capital to invest or we didn't have the technical expertise. Clearly, now that the business is growing again, we have more opportunities to look at the business cases to actually bring the manufacturing of components that we decided to outsource and bring the right ones in house. There are lots of benefits to that. There are quality benefits and clearly our objective is to be the recognized industry leader in quality. We’re on our way to meeting that objective. We're statistically tied right now, but no one wants to be statistically tied. There are benefits in terms of efficiencies in our plants. So we're working actively with our UAW partners to make a good business case. And it all comes back to again those discussions around being competitive. When Ford can be competitive and work together with all our stakeholders – including our UAW partners, our communities, our government and the like. We can make good business cases and we can make it a profitable business. And that's where you're seeing actions to bring component parts back into our plants to make more jobs for our Ford workers.
Q. The Ford brand has grown much stronger. What’s in store for Lincoln?
A. Over the past three or four years we have really redone the entire Lincoln lineup. And our objective now is how we further build the brand, expand the lineup and the consumer experience and bring Lincoln to the next level to make it a truly credible luxury competitor.
The good news is we're building on a good foundation. We've seen our share grow over the last three or four years. Reputation among consumers is better. Our favorable opinion is up, and consideration is up for Lincoln. For quality results, in J.D. Power and Associates, Lincoln was number eight in the industry this year. And then in terms of the consumer, when consumers come in to purchase a vehicle, Lincoln is at or near the top. So we have a great foundation to work off of, but we have to focus our resources and get Lincoln up to that next level with the introduction of the products – the seven new or significantly refreshed products – over the next four years and combine that with the consumer experience in the dealership.
Q. As the business grows stronger, what do we all need to think about?
A. I think the thing we have to keep focused on is all the good work that everybody has done, which has allowed us not only get through this crisis, but put us on a great foundation for growing a world-class business going forward. We want to be one of the top three global competitive players in the world. The key to that is making sure that the business stays competitive. Our responsibility is to make sure that we have a workforce that is sufficiently motivated both from the job content that they have, career opportunities going forward, compensation, benefits – all those things – but do so in a way that keeps us competitive. We've been pretty straightforward that our approach is to profitably grow the business and deliver profitable growth for all. And as we keep putting points on the board in terms of our results, everybody will share in that. The key is keeping those points on the board, keeping ourselves moving forward.
Q. What are people asking you these days about Ford compared to two or three years ago?
A. Two or three years ago, if you were at a neighborhood BBQ or cocktail party or whatever, if people asked you what do you do for a living, who do you work for, you'd say Ford, and I'd tend to have people looking at their shoes and feeling sorry for you. Now, when you tell people you work for Ford, you hear go "Good for you." And I think that all makes us feel really proud. Not only because of that, but because of what we've been able to do as a team in this turn around over the last couple years. It makes that Blue Oval that is tattooed on all of us shine even brighter and feel even more proud about working for this great company. Also, we can be proud that as an American company we have proven we can compete. It’s a great feeling. I talk to a lot of employees and they feel the same way. Our opportunity now is how to continue that. I think it’s a benefit that you can't quantify, but it just makes you feel good and warm inside.
Q. What more do you want to say to employees?
A. A couple of things. First, a big thank you to every one out there. You're seeing the results and the fruits of all your labors. And the second: taking all that great work and great foundation that we've laid, how do we really accelerate from here and truly become world-class – truly allowing us to put in a foundation for enduring prosperity at the company no matter what the economic situation is out there? It’s a big challenge but one we can and will work through together.